Household Experiences: The Pandemic’s Impact on Housing

As the effects of COVID-19 on various facets of life continue to be examined, an important milestone approaches at the end of this month. On June 30th, Governor Whitmer’s executive order issuing a moratorium on evictions in Michigan is set to expire. As this date draws closer, we turn our attention to the effects of COVID-19 on housing security in the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area (Detroit MSA) and how the end of this moratorium may be experienced differently among homeowners and renters. 

We are using data from week four (May 21 – May 26) of the Census Household Pulse Survey to accomplish this. Among the many data points the Pulse Survey captures, respondents are asked to share whether they own or rent their home, whether or not they were able to make housing related payments on time for the previous month, and how confident they are in their ability to make next month’s housing payments on time. These elements are useful proxies to examine early and ongoing impacts of the pandemic on housing and the magnitude in which they are felt by Metro Detroit residents. Information from the Pulse Survey can be used in conjunction with what we already know about housing in Metro Detroit to determine where support will likely be needed most after the moratorium on evictions is lifted.

Housing Landscape in Metro Detroit – Homeowners and Tenants

The Census Pulse Survey is sent to households around the country on a weekly basis to assess how the pandemic’s impacts are experienced by different people. Responses to this survey are collected at the household level and collated to give averages for each state as well as the 15 largest metropolitan areas in the country. Survey responses from the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn Metro Area help us piece together narratives about the region, including the city of Detroit and cities that surround it. The Census refers to this area as the Detroit MSA: we use the term “Metro Detroit” below, but it’s important to note here that these three terms are synonymous with one another.

According to the Pulse Survey, approximately 44.7% of respondents living in Metro Detroit are homeowners working to pay down their mortgage and 27% of respondents are tenants. Relative to state and national averages, Metro Detroit has the smallest proportion of homeowners with mortgagesthe proportion of tenants in the area is smaller than at the national level but larger than Michigan’s.

These datapoints match well with data we have from the American Community Survey. Using ACS data, our Housing Information Portal can help break this information down even further and look at the distribution of rental and owner-occupied homes for each census tract within Metro Detroit. A census tract is a relatively fixed geographic boundary used for census calculations that contains anywhere between 2,500 and 8,000 people. With this, we know that the majority of Detroit’s residents rent their homesthis is true for Southfield and Inkster as well. Census tracts within the boundaries of these cities and others are much more likely to have a majority of renter-occupied households than tracts in surrounding communities. 

How has the pandemic affected homeowners and tenants?

When asked whether or not they were able to make their mortgage payment on time for the previous month, homeowners in Metro Detroit skew relatively close to proportions at the state and national level. 3.4% of homeowners reported being unable to make last month’s payment on time, compared to 3.0% and 4.8% for Michigan and the US respectively.

By contrast, roughly 10% of tenants in the Detroit MSA reported being unable to pay last month’s rent on timea significantly higher proportion than what we see among homeowners. This is true for state and national responses as well16 and 14.9 percent of tenants weren’t able to pay last month’s rent on time for Michigan and the US respectively. As the pandemic continues to impact important areas of life like employment, food insecurity, and housing, tenants appear to be experiencing these effects more acutely than homeowners.

Tracing this trend from early impacts to those felt currently, we turn our attention to the confidence of respondents in their ability to make next month’s payment for their housing on time. Answers to this question show that roughly 32.3% of Metro Detroit tenants report little or no confidence in their ability to pay rent on time for the next month. This is slightly higher than responses at the state and national level and almost four times higher than the proportion of Metro Detroit homeowners who feel similarly worried about next month’s payment.

Who is facing housing insecurity?

The Pulse Survey has helped us understand that tenants feel the impacts of the pandemic on their housing security more than homeowners. That being said, we can also see that some groups in Metro Detroit are more likely than others to experience housing insecurity during the pandemic regardless of whether they rent or own their home. For example, tenants and homeowners who identified as Hispanic were much more likely than other groups to have not made payments on time last month while also reporting little to no confidence in their ability to make next month’s housing payment on time. 

Among tenants, those who identified as Black or White alone were equally likely to have not paid last month’s rent on time but we can see Black respondents are nearly five times more likely to report little or no confidence in making next month’s payment on time. Respondents who identified as Other or as two or more races were not included in these calculations due to the high margin of error.

With such high proportions of Hispanic and Black tenants reporting little or no confidence in making next month’s rent payment on time, it is important for community organizations to know where to find these households and deliver aid. Organizations who help provide services to homeowners and tenants can use our Housing Information Portal to help examine rental-occupancy breakdowns by race and help these organizations determine where their support will likely be needed most. 

Tenants in Metro Detroit with children under 18 years old and those who have lost employment income were also substantially more likely to indicate little or no confidence in their ability to make next month’s payment on time. With the Housing Information Portal, we can determine where households with children under 18 can be found.

The data points above mirror those referenced in our recent blog post about the impacts of COVID-19 on educationthe disparities in how the pandemic has impacted housing security and various other areas of life for those living in Metro Detroit mirror socioeconomic gaps in place long before the pandemic began. Rental housing instability in Metro Detroit has been well documentedas many as 80,000 evictions took place over the course of 2017. Affordable housing in the city has become increasingly difficult to find in recent years and, for people of color living within the city, the origin of this instability draws from the root of our country’s troubled relationship with race and discriminatory practices like redlining and segregation used in the early 20th century.

When the moratorium on evictions is lifted after June 30th, it is important to keep these facts in mind. As the pandemic continues to disproportionately impact people’s housing based on the indicators we have outlined above, knowing where to find and assist these people is more important than ever. For many of these people, eviction, which has been linked to a variety of socioeconomic and health effects, will likely mean seeking shelter with family members or a temporary housing organization. This poses significant concerns in the midst of global pandemicespecially in a city where tenants outnumber homeowners. 

Our Housing Information Portal can help examine communities throughout the Detroit MSA to determine which areas have high proportions of rental housing and where support for people in these areas can have the most impact.  

Do you have additional questions about the data surrounding housing or other changes that have been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic? Just AskD3! We are committed to thoroughly answer all of your data-driven questions during this uncertain time.