America is on the verge of a housing crisis. Nearly a third of Americans didn’t pay rent in April. Landlords and homeowners are worried about foreclosure. Many states and cities have instituted eviction moratoriums, but that just means that missed rent and mortgage payments are piling up. Those who lack housing are once again at the most vulnerable edge of society, with outbreaks in Boston homeless shelters and along Los Angeles’ skid row, while Las Vegas (a city full of empty hotel rooms) is instructing homeless people to camp out in an outdoor parking lot divided into a socially distanced grid.
GEN spoke to the former Housing and Urban Development secretary and onetime presidential candidate Julián Castro about how we got into this mess, how his former agency, in particular, might help alleviate some of the housing shock, and the challenge of convincing Americans to support government interventions.
GEN: How can we stop the coming housing disaster?
Castro: We need to offer direct rental assistance to millions of people who are right on the verge of losing their apartments. Different local communities have put eviction moratoriums in place, but that’s spotty right now, and it doesn’t address the entire equation. It’s better than nothing, but it’s kicking the can down the road and creating some pretty big problems in the months ahead. Direct rental assistance will take pressure off renters and landlords. Then when this subsides in the summer or in the fall, you won’t have that huge backlog of evictions — a secondary crisis waiting to happen.
Do you think we have the political will to do something that big? Congress isn’t even working.
Congressional leaders said that they won’t be back until May 4 unless there’s an emergency. There’s clearly an emergency. A lot of people who never thought of themselves as vulnerable to financial ruin suddenly are. My hope is that Congress will be able to break out of its logjam and do something big. I would be lying to you if I said that I have a ton of confidence.