By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
BRIDGETON, N.J. — In his most recent column for NJ.com, Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly called on Congress to take action to support renters who are behind on their payments.
Kelly cited a study from the Philadelphia Reserve Bank that estimates a total of $7.2 billion owed by renters to landlords at the end of this calendar year. The study was based on about 1.34 million households with an average of $5,400 owed per household, and the study’s basis represents 4.2% of all rented households in the country.
“This 4.2% number doesn’t sound so bad, unless your household is one of those that owes back rent, or you live someplace like Bridgeton, which has an abundance of rental housing,” Kelly wrote. “This is why the actions taken by Congress in the next few weeks will be critical in determining how many families ultimately sink and how many could be able to keep their heads above water.”
As Kelly noted in his column, approximately 60% of housing units in Bridgeton are rental properties. He also cited a study conducted by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies that found one in five renters who make fewer than $25,000 per year are behind on their rent payments. The percentage of renters behind on their payments gradually decreases as their income increases (16% of those who make between $25,000 and $50,000 and nine percent of those who make more than $50,000 are behind on rent payments, per the study).
Because of the current moratorium in place on evictions and foreclosures, New Jerseyans aren’t legally allowed to be evicted from their residences until two months after the conclusion of the state’s public health emergency. Kelly acknowledged that some are taking advantage of this and, in his words, “liv[ing] for the moment and the very short term.”
But ultimately, Kelly’s concern is for families who will be unable to make those payments due to COVID-19 related losses of income — and for landlords, as well.
“This situation impacts not just renters, but landlords as well. They are part of what makes local economies run, and what impacts them is felt throughout the community and beyond,” he wrote. “Without some type of help, households that were unable to pay through no fault of their own will find themselves in a desperate situation. Having an eviction on a credit history impacts scores and makes it much more difficult for these families to find new rental housing.
“Perhaps the government should consider how to offer help in a way that might include a joint application from tenants, who do want to have the fallout from an eviction, and landlords, who simply want their back rent paid.”
The mayor did praise the federal government for its $600-per-week stimulus plan that lasted through the end of July. However, the Philadelphia Reserve Bank Study found that only 125,000 households would be behind on their rent payments if that stimulus plan continued throughout the month of December.
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