I’ve been thinking about this a lot. And while yes, this view is alarmist to an extent… I’m not completely sure we’ll make it to the elections, guys. Or, if we do, that we’ll make it til January when any new administration could start making laws/executive orders to deal with the current mess.
Experts estimate up to 28 million households — households, not people — could be evicted from job losses due to the pandemic.
With the unemployment bonus set to end this month and states starting to end their eviction moratoriums, too many people will be turned out by their landlords. As it stands many landlords are already illegally evicting people and/or trying to charge late fees (also not allowed under the eviction moratoriums), especially with people who have immigrated here illegally. They know those folks probably won’t risk going to the proper authorities.
The GOP has been pretty clear that it won’t agree to renewing the unemployment bonus, and at this point a stimulus check would come too late for many people. So yeah, we’re looking at evictions on a mass scale.
Where will they go?
State governments already have years-long waiting lists for low-income housing, and even if the displaced people are given priority, there’s simply not enough state-sponsored housing for that many people.
Homeless shelters will be overwhelmed, and in many states we might be looking at modern-day Hoovervilles. Both would probably lead to COVID-19 spreading like wildfire throughout an uninsured populace. This puts not just a burden on hospital resources, but also on hospitals’ budgets as too many bills go unpaid.
Obviously, people can apply for Medicaid, but that’s not an endless pool of money. There are limits as to how many recipients states can handle.
Some of the displaced people can look for cheaper places, but they’ll now have an eviction on their record and are probably living on unemployment, making it harder to get their applications approved. And space issues aside, housing laws mean that a family of three or four (or more) can’t move into a room in a house — or even a one-bedroom apartment. So there are limits as to how cheap of a place these folks will be able to find.
Meanwhile, I’m going to go out on a limb and say not a lot of employed renters are looking for new places right now. (And once the inevitable foreclosures drive down house prices, renters might leave to become homeowners.) So many landlords will struggle to fill vacancies. And of course with reduced travel, a lot of Airbnb properties are going unused.
The problem is that a lot of landlords rely on tenant rent to make their rental properties’ mortgage payments. So many are going to default on their payments.
Even if their properties are still rented, some of these landlords may have lost their own jobs. And you can bet that, if it comes to using tenant rent to pay a mortgage, those folks are going to choose their own houses over their rental properties.
So we’re probably looking at large-scale foreclosures ala 2008. Maybe worse. This affects not just property owners, but any tenants in the foreclosed rentals.
That’s bad enough, but banks proved in 2008 that they have problems when foreclosures start on a massive scale. And of course, many of these unemployed people are going to default on their credit card payments, further hurting the banks.
Banks will probably shrink existing credit lines like they did in 2008. (Some have already started.) Which provides less of a buffer for emergencies for those who are still making payments but just barely scraping by at the moment. Meaning they’re more likely to be one emergency away from serious financial (and maybe housing) trouble.
Presumably, the government will step in and bail out banks. (Because god forbid it bail out the individuals themselves to avoid this mess in the first place.) So that’s another $500 to $700 billion added to the national debt. Maybe more, since that’s what it cost 12 years ago.
Anyway, let’s be super optimistic and say that half of the 28 million homeless households find another place to live: subsidized housing, friends, family or a sympathetic/desperate landlord with more affordable rent. Even then — and even assuming an average of only two people per household — around 9% of the entire country would be homeless.
Which means you’ve got hordes of homeless people on top of a pandemic. And that’s not just a one-two punch. As I said previously, the third hit comes in COVID-19 running rampant through a population that can’t not be in close contact, as they’re put in homeless shelters, encampments, etc.
Meanwhile, COVID case spikes across the country are likely already going to lead to overwhelmed hospitals. (Texas is already there.) So the homeless population’s infection rate is going to exacerbate a probably already-existing issue. As we saw in New York City, overwhelmed hospitals mean more people dying because there isn’t supplies, equipment or staff to administer proper care.
All of this on top of the civil unrest as people protest police brutality, racism and systemic injustice.
So, in all probability you’ve got hundreds of thousands of people dead, around 29 million people homeless (including the existing homeless population), millions more barely scraping by, a hike in national debt, ongoing protests for social reform of systemic issues, and no end in sight.
That… That kinda seems like the perfect breeding ground for a revolt. An uprising of fed-up, homeless, starving and scared citizens who can’t take it anymore.
The people rising up
And if that were to happen?
“Best” case scenario, the National Guard is able to quash any violence. But that means a lot of civilian deaths. No one is going to forget that any time soon.
Worst case scenario… I can’t even imagine what that would look like. Much as I don’t want the orange idiot in the White House, I don’t think he should be torn apart by an angry mob. (Well, I guess it depends which day you ask me.)
So I won’t give too much thought to what a successful revolt would look like. But obviously it’d be bad.
Given how large of a military we have, I’m guessing the “best” case scenario is far more likely. But again, then we have the military firing on our own people. Not a great look for a democracy.
Obviously, some of this is worst-case scenario. But a lot of it seems unfortunately likely unless the government does something stat.
Unfortunately, another stimulus check won’t be enough. Some people just got theirs in June. Even if the government could get all the checks out in August, it would be too late for many renters to avoid homelessness.
One suggestion I heard was that we employ people WPA style — but instead of infrastructure (though that could certainly use some work too), we train contact tracers. It’s work that could probably be done from home (thereby keeping the risk of infection low) and that could help us get this pandemic under control.
Others have talked about housing vouchers, since more eviction moratoriums just puts undue economic pressure on landlords.
What doesn’t help
I’m sure there will be at least a few readers wanting to chime in that these people should’ve had emergency funds — or bigger ones. But here’s the thing: Even if you don’t buy into the systemic issues in this country (such as wages that don’t keep pace with skyrocketing housing and schooling costs), saying what people should have done doesn’t get us anywhere.
For whatever reason you ascribe, many people in this country don’t have savings or have already run through what they did have. So saying how they should’ve acted doesn’t solve the problems we’re facing now. And if you don’t have any sympathy for the adults, you should at least want better for their kids, who’ll be out on the street and hungry with them.
So we need to focus on what to do now to prevent the dystopia I described above. We can work on financial education once people are housing secure and banks aren’t in danger of financial ruin.
Anyone have any brilliant ideas on how to deal with this? Anyone certain that it’ll be fine and I’m being utterly alarmist?