Nearly 11 million households missed mortgage or rent payments at pandemic's outset – study

by Ryan Smith18 Sep 2020

Nearly 11 million households fell behind on their mortgage or rent payments during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study by the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Research Institute for Housing America (RIHA). Meanwhile, 30 million people missed at least one student loan payment.

The report contains data from an internet panel survey specially tailored to study the impact of the pandemic on rent, mortgage and student loan payment patterns. It found that the sudden onset of the pandemic led to abrupt job losses and reductions in hours worked. “However, federal government stimulus programs and employees being called back to work both appear to have helped most individuals make their housing payments,” the MBA said.

Still, the report found that 5.14 million homeowners (8%) missed or deferred at least one mortgage payment, while 5.88 million renters (11%) reported a missed, delayed or reduced payment.

“RIHA’s study shows that households were largely successful in navigating a difficult economic landscape and continued to make their housing payments during the first three months of the outbreak,” said Gary V. Engelhardt, professor of economics at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. “In contrast, nearly half of student debt borrowers missed at least one payment. Data from other sources reveal that this trend has continued through August. With the first round of federal stimulus having run its course, and Congress deadlocked in passing another round of relief, families’ continued ability to meet their housing obligations during the ongoing pandemic is critical to the health of the housing and mortgage industries.”

Engelhardt warned that there were still hurdles ahead as the pandemic continues.

“The stubbornly high rates of new COVID-19 cases and the labor market’s sluggish recovery both present significant challenges for household finances as the country enters the fall,” he said.