July 1, 2021

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Low-Income Tenants’ Housing Security in Washington State

by Matthew Fowle & Rachel Fyall

June 30, 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic and related economic recession have had a substantial negative impact on low-income tenants’ housing security. A record number of households have been unable to pay their rent on-time. To stem the threat of eviction for non-payment of rent, governments have implemented eviction moratoria. This mixed methods study, in partnership with the Tenants Union of Washington State, draws on semi-structured interviews (n=25) and a survey (n=410) with low-income tenants to examine the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic and eviction moratoria have impacted housing security in Washington State.

The study finds that the pandemic has led to downward residential mobility, increased rental debt, and poorer housing quality for low-income households. The pandemic has also exacerbated the negative impact of housing insecurity on health as tenants are spending more time in substandard housing that is harmful to their physical and mental health. Overall, households of color have been disproportionately affected by this worsening housing security, in particular Black and Latinx tenants. The eviction moratorium has likely been successful in preventing a surge in formal evictions during the pandemic. However, methods of informal evictions and forced moves, such as landlords changing door locks and refusing to renew leases, have significantly increased.


Learn more about people mentioned in this post