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Mortgage Rates Hit New Low, Allowing Record Number of Homeowners To Refinance

By Dhara Singh

From Yahoo Money

Mortgage rates dropped to a new low for the 13th time this year, allowing a record number of homeowners to refinance, according to Freddie Mac, a government-sponsored agency that backs millions of mortgages.

The rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 2.72%, exceeding the previous low of 2.78% recorded the week of November 5. This is the lowest on records dating back to 1971 when the agency first began tracking rates. A year ago, the rate stood at 3.66%.

The new low would allow 19.4 million Americans to refinance their mortgages, a record high, according to exclusive data provided to Yahoo Money by Black Knight, a mortgage data and analytics firm. These homeowners could save a total of $5.98 billion on aggregate monthly payments.

“Investors had to weight the promising news of another vaccine contender against this week’s disappointing retail report and still-rising COVID cases, which drove the Freddie Mac interest rate for a 30-year loan down 12 basis points to another record low,” said Georgie Raitu, senior economist at Realtor.com, a real estate listing website.

‘Buyers and owners may see different rates’

Not everyone will be able to tap into the record low rates.

“Low mortgage rates are good for homebuyers as well as those looking to refinance,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “But buyers and owners may see different rates offered depending on their credit characteristics, the type of home they are looking to buy or refinance, and whether they are doing a purchase or refinance itself.”

As unemployment increased during the pandemic, home loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration and often used by borrowers with blemished credit have increased their minimum credit score requirements — up to the mid-600s at some lenders — to protect from a higher risk of default.

Many banks also tightened lending standards in the third quarter for most types of mortgages, including for government- sponsored mortgages, which make up the majority of bank mortgage originations, according to a recent report from the Federal Reserve.

Rates Could Dip Lower.

Rates will likely decrease in upcoming weeks, experts said, but the rate is unlikely to reach as low as 2.5%. That is largely due to lenders being unable to keep up with a mortgage refinancing boom during the pandemic.

“Mortgage rates have traditionally been aligned with and mirrored the moves of the 10-year Treasury note,” Raitu said. “With Treasury yields having spent the better part of 2020 under 1%, we could have expected rates to have been in the 2.5% to 2.6% [range], but many lenders have responded to high unemployment and a large wave of refinances by tightening underwriting standards and keeping rates higher.”

Spoke At Small Or Solo Law Practice Class

Today I was afforded the opportunity once again to speak in the Small Or Solo Law Practice Class at the University of Washington School of Law. The best part of my presentation was the break out sessions, where I got to see law students analyze potential ethical issues. The student responses were on target, complex, and strikingly sophisticated. Knowing that the legal profession will be carried on by such great thinkers is really inspiring. Clients of the future will be in good hands.

Portland Approves Option To Have Landlords Pay Tenant Relocation Fee

By Everton Bailey Jr.

From The Oregonian

Portland landlords must pay to move residential tenants who can’t afford any rent increase after the City Council unanimously agreed Wednesday to temporarily modify its renter relocation assistance policy.

The rule goes into effect immediately and applies to any rent increase between September and March 31, 2021. Tenants must provide written notice they can’t afford the higher rate and will need to move.

The previous policy applied only to rent increases of 10% or more. The rule calls for landlords to pay between $2,900 to $4,500 to help tenants move. The City Council plans to discuss later this year whether to keep the temporary revision through March or extend it further.

Portland requires landlords to give tenants at least 90 days’ notice of any rent increase. With the new rules, city leaders said landlords will have the option to rescind any September rent increase and refund any increased rent paid by the tenant. To qualify, tenants must provide written notice that they need assistance either 45 days after being given notice of the rent increase or until Sept. 30, whichever period is longer.

The proposal was announced by Mayor Ted Wheeler last week and the policy change was crafted by members of his office and the Portland Housing Bureau. He said it was necessary to help keep renters in their homes amid the coronavirus pandemic as the statewide eviction moratorium is slated to end Sept. 30.

If the deadline on the moratorium isn’t extended, March 31 marks the end of the six-month grace period for Oregonians to pay all of their outstanding rental payments. Wheeler and other council members acknowledged the new rule could further burden landlords and that even this provision and rent assistance funds from the city won’t be enough to more fully address issues faced by tenants and landlords without more significant state and federal aid.

“I want to be crystal clear about this. We aren’t saving anybody,” Wheeler said. “We’re temporarily suspending the coming eviction tidal wave and the potential loss of local building owners and landlords.”

Rent increases disproportionally impact households of color, city officials said. According to city data of around 264,000 Portland households, 47% are renters and the other 53% are homeowners. But 43% of white households in the Portland area are renters while as many as 74% of Black households rent.

Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, who was the architect behind the original relocation assistance policy, said she was disappointed rent and mortgage forgiveness programs haven’t caught traction among state and federal legislators. She said she felt the city had to prioritize more vulnerable Portlanders, noting that renters typically have fewer financial resources than landlords and rent increases without the option of relocation assistance would be “a recipe for displacement.”

“I want to assert that in this moment of crisis, when we know that half of our renters were cost-burdened before COVID, we can’t balance landlord housing pressures on the backs of renters,” Eudaly said.

She also noted that the rule change doesn’t ban landlords from raising rent and that increases can still take place in the city for tenants who can afford it.

There was no public testimony on the proposal before the City Council vote. Wednesday marked the first City Council meeting with five members as Commissioner Dan Ryan took part. He was sworn in last week.

Ryan was elected last month to serve the remaining two years on the term of late Commissioner Nick Fish, who died in January of cancer.

Cincinnati’s Bold New Law Could Help Renters Survive The Eviction Crisis

By Liza Ramrayka

From HuffPost

Cincinnati native and resident Jeneya Lawrence dreams of living in a house with a garden big enough to fit a trampoline for her two young children, on a street with neighbors from diverse communities.

The 28-year-old community health worker and single mom is determined to stay in Cincinnati, near family and friends, despite gentrification and seeing average rents double over the past decade. When Lawrence found a rental unit earlier this year with separate bedrooms for her 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, close to good schools and her work, she couldn’t believe her luck. Then the landlord asked for a $1,300 security deposit in advance.

“I just did not have that. I asked him if I could split it over two payments but he said no,” explained Lawrence, who then had to wait another six months to find a rental in a less-convenient location where she could afford the deposit.

Lawrence’s story is a familiar one for many lower-income renters across the U.S., who have found it increasingly difficult to find homes as the housing crisis tightens its grip on cities across the country.

But Cincinnati is trying to do something to ease the burden. In April this year, it became the first city in the U.S. to require landlords to accept alternatives to a security deposit. Cincinnati’s bold move has been hailed as a way to disrupt a broken system for renters. Other cities and states are now also offering deposit alternatives to make housing more accessible to low-income renters.

The new program, dubbed “renters’ choice,” came into effect too late for Lawrence to benefit from it when she was last looking to move. But she hopes it will make it easier for her and other lower-income renters to find homes in the future.

The program could also level the playing field for the city’s homeless population, said Kevin Finn, president and CEO of Strategies To End Homelessness.

“On any given day, we have 200 families that have a first month’s rent but they still can’t find an apartment,” he said. “Having a more realistic arrangement for what the deposit looks like will make it much easier to get those households into an apartment.”

Homelessness in Cincinnati disproportionately affects the city’s Black community (62% of the homeless population) and people under the age of 35 (55% of the homeless population). And the number of unhoused people is expected to increase this year and next due to the effects of COVID-19 on job losses and evictions.

Even before COVID-19 hit the U.S., millions of low-income renters were struggling. Nationwide, there should be at least 7 million more homes for those who earn the least. “For every 10 of the lowest-income renters, there are fewer than four apartments that are affordable and available to them,” Diane Yentel, president and CEO at the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told HuffPost.

The pandemic has exacerbated the situation. More than 40% of low- and moderate-income households in the U.S. said they had no emergency savings, while over 12% would not be able to pay for a $400 emergency expense, according to an April survey published by Brookings.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed in March, added a weekly $600 federal supplement to unemployment payments and implemented a federal eviction moratorium. But both provisions expired in July.

More than 1 in 5 renters were behind on payments in July, and widespread evictions are expected unless states extend moratoriums or introduce rental assistance. The replacement lost wages benefit ― reliant on joint funding with states ― offers claimants a maximum $400 a week.

Cincinnati resident Seth Weber lost his job in March when the restaurant he worked at was shuttered due to COVID-19. He got work at a bakery — but the bakery burned down in August. He’ll be counting on unemployment benefits to make his monthly rent of $700. But Cincinnati is looking at an eviction crisis, and he’s aware that this fate could be just around the corner for him.

“That’s the worst thing a tenant can face,” said Weber, a volunteer for Cincinnati Tenants’ Union. “Once you have an eviction on your record, you’re only going to be able to get into substandard housing.”

Many renters avoid getting an eviction on their records by downgrading their housing ― perhaps moving from a two-bedroom to a one-bedroom ― but doing so requires having enough money saved to put down a security deposit. “The new legislation will help them be able to get into less-expensive housing and avoid getting an eviction on their record,” said Finn.

The new legislation could come in handy if Weber has to move soon to avoid eviction.

Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld (D) introduced the legislation last November after reaching out to local tenants and landlords to address the city’s need for more affordable homes. He says renters’ choice will give low-income renters greater access to housing in a city where median household monthly income is around $2,800, and a two- or three-bedroom apartment can cost $1,000 or more.

“The ‘north star’ for me throughout the crafting of this legislation was how can we remove an upfront barrier that is the traditional, steep, cash security deposit?” he said. “And can we replace it with something that lets people get into the housing they desire, while also still giving landlords the protection they need?”

For many people, especially those on limited incomes, it has long been all but impossible to find the cash for security deposits — often, one or even two months’ rent — that landlords require upfront but which aren’t covered by a tenant’s Section 8 housing support voucher.

“When you have such limited income, any extra expense ― such as security deposits or requirements to pay the first and last month’s rent upfront ― can be an insurmountable hurdle to finding an apartment you can afford,” said Yentel.

Cincinnati’s renters’ choice legislation applies to all landlords with 25 units or more and offers three options: an insurance premium, in which the tenant pays a small monthly, nonrefundable fee instead of an upfront deposit; an installment plan to spread the deposit equally over six months (or more if the landlord agrees); or a reduced security deposit, paid upfront, of no more than half the monthly rent.

Sittenfeld says security deposit insurance could mean a tenant paying just $5 a month to protect the landlord against damages or rent default, instead of a $1,000 security deposit. “I don’t pay $100,000 a year in health insurance premiums anticipating that I’m going to have a catastrophic heart attack. You pay a little bit each month, then it’s pooled risk.”

The “ongoing economic repercussions” of the pandemic — with thousands out of work or underemployed — only serve to highlight the need for renters’ choice legislation in Cincinnati, and across the country, says Sittenfeld.

Elected officials, nonprofits, and landlord groups are collaborating to publicize the new rules. “While it is still early on, we’re optimistic that the legislation will be successful in ensuring renters have the ability to secure an apartment without a large upfront cash security deposit,” said Sittenfeld, “and look forward to seeing the legislation expand across the country to help renters in cities large and small.”

Cincinnati’s legislation is part of a wider movement to disrupt what is arguably an outdated system, particularly where low-income housing is scarce.

New legislation in Virginia allows landlords to accept damage insurance in lieu of a security deposit. In Pennsylvania, a proposed amendment would require landlords to offer security deposit alternatives such as installment payments or insurance. (Both laws cap the sum of deposits and insurance at two months’ rent.) Representatives from several other cities and states including Alabama and North Carolina have committed to introducing renters’ choice legislation.

In 2019, New York state passed a law to cap security deposits to one month’s rent and require deposit return within 14 days. In March of this year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pandemic-related executive order required landlords to allow certain tenants to use their security deposits to pay rent that is in arrears or due and to replenish the security deposit over time or “retain insurance that provides relief for the landlord in lieu of the monthly security deposit replenishment.”

Some landlords argue that an insurance-based system would create more problems since they’d have to extract funds from an insurer rather than having cash in hand to make any repairs necessary at the end of the lease. Charles Tassell, chief operating officer of the National Real Estate Investors Association, commented recently: “I’ve got to deal with an insurance claim and get my attorneys involved. And they’ve got their high-priced attorneys in-house.”

And others warn that over a year or more, the total paid in nonrefundable insurance premiums could exceed the upfront security deposit and that renters may be unaware that such insurance does not cover them against damages or repairs that exceed the policy’s coverage.

Weber worries that because the policy only applies to landlords with more than 25 units, it limits choices for tenants.

Finn adds that while tenants are learning of their options from housing nonprofits, landlords may still be in the dark, so cities and states need to do more to educate them about their new responsibilities.

Yentel says alternatives to security deposits provide creative and much-needed additional assistance to get families into homes. However, she argues that there is an urgent need to tackle the underlying issues contributing to the housing crisis. Solutions include more sustained, substantial federal investment in the Section 8 voucher program so all those in need receive help, and building more housing for low-income people through programs such as the National Housing Trust Fund.

In Cincinnati, where there is a 40,000-unit housing deficit, the city is hoping to help low-income renters with several new building projects. These include the Willkommen and Perseverance developments supported by the nonprofit Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, which is working in partnership with the city to set aside 101 affordable rental units for those making 50-80% of the Cincinnati area median income.

Lawrence — who is still seeking out a rental that checks all the boxes — is optimistic that Cincinnati’s recent renters’ choice legislation will offer renters like her access to homes like these next time they need to move.

“I’m happy that we can pick where we want to stay but also have three options on the money side,” she said. “This time, I will look at places where I have the stores I need, the schools convenient for my children. As long as property owners are open-minded and not money-hungry, it won’t be hard.”

Foreign buying of American real estate plunged before the coronavirus pandemic — and experts say it’s only going to get worse

from Marketwatch

By Jacob Passy

International buyers purchased the smallest number of existing-homes in the U.S. since 2011 this past year

Foreign buyers are purchasing fewer and fewer American homes. And the coronavirus pandemic could cause a serious pullback in new investment in U.S. residential real estate from international buyers.

During the 12-month period ending in March 2020, foreign buyers purchased 154,000 existing homes in the U.S., down 16% from the previous year, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors. This was the smallest number of existing-homes that international buyers have purchased since 2011, and the third consecutive year that the number decreased.

Altogether, international buyers purchased $74 billion-worth of U.S. residential real-estate, down from $77.9 billion the year before and $121 billion two years ago. The report includes purchases by buyers who live abroad as well as foreign residents in the U.S.

China was the largest buyer of U.S. homes once again, accounting for the purchase of 18,400 homes worth roughly $11.5 billion. But among the top five international buyers — which also included Canada, Mexico, India and Colombia — China was the only country where the number and value of homes purchased between 2019 and 2020 decreased.

A number of factors have reduced Chinese interest in U.S. real estate in recent years — including government efforts to stem these purchases.

 “The Chinese government has become much more restrictive about how much cash they can take out of the country,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.

“There’s always a way to go around it, but the fact that the Chinese government is placing capital controls means there could be more monitoring of their citizens,” Yun added. “Just the sense the government may be watching them has reduced the number of Chinese buyers here in the U.S.”

Continued trade tensions between the U.S. and China has also worked to hold back some activity, as have restrictions on visa issuance to Chinese visitors.

How the pandemic will affect international purchases of U.S. homes

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) report only covers the period between April 2019 and March 2020, so it doesn’t reflect the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

But even before the pandemic became a crisis here in the U.S. it was having an effect on home-buying activity. Back in February, when China was still the main epicenter for the pandemic, real-estate agents told MarketWatch that uncertainty and travel restrictions had led Chinese investors to pull out of planned deals.

Much has changed since then. The U.S. now has the largest number of cases worldwide, and many countries have imposed travel restrictions. This will seriously curtail foreign buying of U.S. real-estate, Yun said.

“For the most part, people need to see the property in person,” Yun said. Buyers from abroad aren’t just purchasing properties for investment purposes.

Over half (51%) of non-resident foreign home buyers plan to use the property as a primary residence or vacation home, while another 10% expect to have it double as a rental property and vacation home, according to NAR data.

Over half of non-resident home buyers use the property as a primary residence or vacation home.

Moreover, the most popular real-estate markets for foreign buyers are located in states with some of the highest coronavirus case counts. Florida was the top destination for foreign buyers, followed by California, Texas, New York and New Jersey.

Given the difficulty and risks posed by traveling, many foreign buyers may decide to hold off on buying an American home until they can enjoy it.

International buyers also don’t have the same incentives to buy a home in the U.S. right now as their American peers. “International buyers are much more likely to buy with cash or use more limited financing,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “As a result, we don’t see a surge in international demand when interest rates drop.”

A number of factors could provide a boost to international demand, though. The upcoming presidential election could result in a dramatic shift in international relations depending on the outcome. “A Biden administration could potentially be more welcoming,” Yun said.

The U.S. real-estate market’s quick rebound from its coronavirus lows could be a draw in and of itself for foreign buyers, said Daren Blomquist, vice president of market economics at Auction.com, a listing site for foreclosed properties. Plus, some economists have suggested that the flight to the suburbs could lead to softer prices for properties in major cities, which could attract foreign buyers.

Ultimately, though, a decline in international buying isn’t likely to hurt the U.S. real-estate market, because foreign buyers only account for 4% of existing-home sales. In fact, it could be the opposite.

“The fact that foreigners have stepped back is actually providing a better chance for domestic buyers to get those properties,” Yun said.

Surge In Evictions

The wave has already begun: Evictions surge as cities suspend moratoriums

by Akiko Fujita

Yahoo Finance

Legal aid groups and housing advocates are bracing for a surge in evictions, as local governments begin lifting moratoriums that deferred rent payments for millions of tenants who lost jobs to the pandemic.

In Michigan, where the state is set to lift the eviction moratorium next Wednesday, Ruthie Paulson has seen a 76% spike in calls to her 211 call center, which provides social services to those most in need. Nationally, the call volume has jumped 200%.

“A lot of the tenants are living in fear, day to day, not knowing if they’re going to receive a stimulus check, not knowing if they’re going to receive an unemployment check,” Paulson said. “They know that date is coming, when legally they know their landlord will be able to get a court order to officially evict them. They know they’re not going to be able to pay that money.”

States that have already lifted the moratorium have seen a dramatic spike in eviction cases. In Memphis, Shelby County courts faced a backlog of 9,000 eviction cases when hearings resumed last month. In Milwaukee, eviction filings spiked 15% since the city’s moratorium was lifted, according to data from the Eviction lab. Columbus, Ohio, converted the city’s convention center into a socially-distanced housing court to prepare for the impending wave of evictions and homelessness.

“In many ways, the wave has already begun. We need to work to stop it from becoming a tsunami and we’re running out of time,” said Diane Yentel, President of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. “We’re seeing now a really frankly horrifying confluence of increasing evictions in states where new coronavirus cases are surging.”

20 million renters at risk of eviction

More than 20 million people, or one in five of the 110 million Americans who live in households that rent, are at risk of eviction by the end of September, according to the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. While economic stimulus payments and unemployment insurance have allowed tenants to remain in their homes throughout the pandemic, CEDP Co-Founder Zach Neumann says that is likely to change dramatically, with enhanced unemployment insurance set to expire at the end of the month.

Black and Latino families are at highest risk of eviction, according to Yentel.

Those seeking help aren’t limited to low-income families, but young professionals now out of work.

“You have a lot of folks who had strong incomes, in a lot of cases high five figure or low six figure

[salaries]

. They didn’t have a lot of savings, lost their jobs or were furloughed, and there was not any severance attached to that, but had rents that were in line with the salaries they were earning,” Neumann said. “The client pool economically looks a lot different than it has in the past.”

Eviction hearings conducted by Zoom

The threat of homelessness coincides with a troubling uptick in coronavirus cases across the South and West, leaving tenants especially vulnerable. In Tucson, where a surge in infections has filled hospitals to capacity, courts are processing over 52 eviction cases a day, 2 to 5 times the case load from the same period last year, according to Yentel. A disturbing spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations prompted Texas Governor Greg Abbott to roll back the state’s reopening plans last month, but eviction hearings are moving forward on Zoom. That’s complicated the legal fight for tenants, who don’t have access to the technology.

Tenant rights vary from state to county to city, adding to the confusion. In some jurisdictions, failure to dial into a hearing by video call paves the way for landlords to move forward with an eviction.

“With a Zoom hearing you never have the opportunity to access a lawyer, to speak to someone who can give you advice to explain how the process goes. So the odds of not having your full rights under the law or not having representation, go down even further,” said Neumann, who offers legal aid to tenants in Colorado. “Even before COVID it was an extreme problem — 98% of landlords in Colorado went to court with an attorney and 2% of tenants did. We expect to see that 2% go down to an even lower number, which obviously affects outcomes across the system.”

Housing advocates say the pandemic has exacerbated an affordable housing crisis the country faced even before COVID-19. Yentel says 8 million households, or roughly 25 million people, were paying at least half of their income towards rent each month.

“When you have such limited income to begin with and you’re paying so much of it for your home, you’re always one financial emergency away from not being able to pay the rent and facing eviction, and in worst cases homelessness,” Yentel said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has introduced legislation to extend the 120-day rent moratorium in the CARES Act to March 2021. Though the initial provision, set to expire on July 25, only covers federally assisted housing, or roughly 30% of renters nationwide, Warren’s proposal extends the proposal to include most tenants.

But with Congress on recess until July 20, any action may be too late for tenants living in cities where the moratorium has already been lifted.

“We’re running out of time,” Yentel said. “The stakes couldn’t be higher right now, and every day of inaction is putting more low income people at risk of losing their homes.”

Seattle City Council Passes Bill Aiming To Prevent Evictions After Moratorium Is Lifted

By Becca Savransky, SeattlePI, Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Seattle City Council this week passed a bill offering more protections to prevent tenants unable to pay their rent from being evicted after the city and statewide eviction moratoriums are lifted.

The bill — passed in a 9-0 vote by the council — gives tenants a defense to use in eviction proceedings relating to not being able to pay rent for six months after Seattle’s moratorium on residential evictions is lifted. The moratorium is currently in effect through June 4. The bill is aimed at helping to keep the thousands of people impacted by the spread of the novel coronavirus safely housed.

“This legislation before us today can help people stay housed and that is the bottom line,” Council President M. Lorena González said during a council meeting.

The bill expands on the city’s just cause eviction ordinance, creating an addition tool a tenant can use in eviction court proceedings. The eviction defense applies to tenants who have been financially impacted by the pandemic and have therefore been unable to pay their rent.

“What we are doing is we are enhancing existing landlord and tenant laws to benefit tenants who are going to need additional time to get their feet grounded and to be able to continue to dig out of this economic crisis,” González said.

Under the bill, landlords can still take actions associated with evictions, but tenants can use this as a defense in court. Tenants will also still accrue debt and will be expected to pay the rent that is owed.

“Providing a defense to eviction for certain causes is necessary as an additional step to protect public health to support stable housing, decrease the likelihood that individuals and families will fall into homelessness, and decrease exposure while the COVID-19 emergency exists,” the legislation said.

Councilmember Andrew Lewis said rent relief continues to be a priority for the city, but there are hundreds of thousands of people across the state who are unemployed and need help during this crisis.

“As one of the two renters on the council, I think it’s critical that we extend protection to renters in this time to make sure that we can keep people inside, especially in a time of uncertainty, in addition to public health threats,” he said during a council meeting.

“We are in a period of immense and extreme uncertainty regarding how people are going to immediately make their rent and it puts a lot of Washingtonians in a position where, while they could ordinarily be able to pay their rent on time, it might take some folks a little bit more time to do it.”

During the council meeting, council members acknowledged this is just one piece of the relief people need due to the coronavirus outbreak. Rent assistance, along with more affordable housing, is still desperately needed in the city and across the county.

The novel coronavirus outbreak has led to thousands of people across the region losing their jobs. Without a steady income, workers have struggled to pay for rent and other basic expenses. More than half a million people across Washington have applied for unemployment benefits since the pandemic started.

In March, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan issued an emergency order to temporarily stop evictions in Seattle for residents, nonprofits and some small businesses. Gov. Jay Inslee shortly after issued a statewide moratorium on evictions for people who weren’t able to pay rent. In April, he extended the moratorium through June 4. But under the eviction moratorium, people will still accrue debt and are expected to pay the rent owed after the moratorium is lifted.

Several nonprofits have rental assistance programs in place to help people pay their rent and avoid eviction, but with a growing need, those programs have been overwhelmed.

United Way of King County last month launched an expanded rental assistance program with a $5 million investment to help people behind on their April rent. Within days, the program had thousands more applications than it had the funds to serve.

Last week, Inslee announced he was extending the state’s stay-at-home order through May 31 and would continue with a phased approach to reopening the economy. The state’s plan means many people will likely be out of work for some time longer, as industries gradually reopen at limited capacities over the next several months.

Inslee has also warned if the state sees another jump in cases and hospitalization, restrictions could be put back into place. The most recent data from the Washington State Department of Health shows more than 15,000 confirmed cases of the virus

Housing Market Showing Signs of Trouble Because of Coronavirus Pandemic

America’s housing market is showing the first signs of trouble because of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Jacob Passy, Market Watch

March started out as a strong month for the U.S. housing market — but by the second half of the month, the first indications that the coronavirus pandemic would weigh on home-selling activity began to emerge, according to a new report from Realtor.com.

In the weeks ending March 21 and March 28, the number of newly-listed properties fell by 13.1% and 34% respectively when compared with the same period a year ago, Realtor.com found. This is an indication that home sellers may be holding off on listing their properties right now.

The pace of home-price growth also slowed notably in the latter half of the month, according to the report. Home list prices were only up 3.3% year-over-year for the week ending March 21, and 2.5% for the following week. This represented the slowest pace of listing price growth since Realtor.com started tracking this data in 2013.

“Our inventory and listing data can provide some early insight into how housing markets may be impacted by COVID-19, but the situation and reactions to it are still rapidly evolving,” Realtor.com chief economist Danielle Hale wrote in the report.

“The U.S. housing market had a good start to the year. Despite still-limited homes for sale, buyers were buying and builders were building,” she wrote. “The pandemic and virus-fighting measures appear to be disrupting that initial momentum as both buyers and sellers adopt a more cautious posture.”

Real-estate firms have taken steps to brace for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. So-called iBuyers including Zillow US:ZG and Redfin US:RDFN that purchase homes from sellers and then sell them for a profit had wound down their home-buying operations in anticipation of an economic downturn. Real-estate brokers, incuding Redfin and Re/Max US:RMAX , had also shifted toward virtual home tours as open houses became verboten in the wake of social-distancing recommendations.

And other recent reports have shown additional signs of a slowdown in the housing market. LendingTree US:TREE released an analysis of Google US:GOOG search data analyzing the popularity of the search term “homes for sale” across the country’s 50 largest metro areas. Searches for “homes for sale” have fallen across all 50 cities in the study from their peak levels in 2020 thus far.

LendingTree estimated that these Google searches could drop some 63% compared with last year if the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak remains substantial for the next two months. A drop in web searches could presage a decline in home sales.

Another sign that home sales will slump this spring: Mortgage applications. The volume of mortgage applications for loans used to purchase homes was down 24% compared with a year ago for the week ending March 27, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. That’s in spite of mortgage rates being near historic lows. Comparatively, the volume of refinance applications was 168% higher than a year ago.

Before the coronavirus pandemic flared up, the U.S. housing market was on relatively solid footing. While the number of homes for sale remained low — constraining sales activity to an extent — demand among buyers was still quite high. Low mortgage rates had fueled an early start to the spring home-buying season, with homes selling four days faster in March when compared with 2019 levels, Realtor.com found.

The jump in jobless claims has stoked concerns of a repeat of the Great Recession and the foreclosure crisis that preceded it. But housing economists argue that this is unlikely to be the case.

“While housing led the recession in 2008-2009, this time it may be poised to bring us out of it,” Mark Fleming, chief economist for title insurance company First American Financial Corporation US:FAF , wrote in a report this week.

Unlike in the 2000s, the housing market in the U.S. is not overbuilt, Fleming argued, making it less likely that a large swath of vacant properties will crater the home values for homeowners. Rising home values and stricter lending standards have also meant that homeowners are sitting on historically high amounts of home equity.

“The housing market will not go unscathed, as consumer confidence and a strong labor market are essential in the decision to purchase a home,” Fleming wrote. “Yet, this time, housing is a casualty of a public health crisis turned economic, not the cause of an economic crisis.”

Rent Is Too High In U.S. Cities

The rent is just too darn high in these U.S. cities

By Adriana Belmonte,Yahoo Money

The cost of rent in the U.S., particularly in certain metro areas, is too darn high.

Nearly half of U.S. rental households are spending more than the recommended 30% of their income on rent, according to a report from Apartment List. (The national rate went from 49.5% in 2017 to 49.7% in 2018.)

And according to Apartment List, “in 19 of the nation’s 25 largest metros, a household earning the median renter income would be cost-burdened by the median rent. Of the 100 largest metros, the median renter would be burdened in 64 metros.”

Among the biggest metros in the U.S., Miami has the highest cost burden rate at 62.7% — this means that 62.7% of its renters are spending more than the recommended 30% on rent. Not far behind is New Orleans at 60.1% The two largest metros in the U.S. by population, New York and Los Angeles, are at 52.2% and 56.9% respectively. Given their size, NYC and LA house the highest number of cost-burdened individuals.

“Certainly, the worst offenders — places like Los Angeles, Boston, San Diego, Miami — these are places where it’s not always easy to build as many houses as you’d like, but also their economies have been very strong, so the increases in rental [costs] become an unfortunate byproduct of that,” Igor Popov, chief economist at Apartment List, told Yahoo Finance.

By state, Florida has the highest cost burden rate at 56.5%. Other high cost-burdened states include New York, New Jersey, California, Colorado, Louisiana, and Connecticut — notably places along the coasts.

“We’re seeing that especially coastal cities — where adding new housing is difficult but economies are booming — those are the places where affordability issues are stacking up the most,” Popov said. “With that said, it is a national problem so even cities that aren’t necessarily in the housing affordability debate every day still have a lot of renters who are struggling.”

Because of high rents in many of these cities, residents often turn to surrounding areas to reside for more financially feasible places to live. This is the case of Riverside, Calif., a city near Los Angeles, where the median rent accounts for approximately 36% of a person’s income.

“Riverside is actually seeing a lot of people who are migrating from the LA metro in search of more affordable options, but that demand is, in turn, driving up the price there as well,” Popov said.

‘I guess we went in the wrong direction’

Supply and demand wasn’t the only factor that affected the increase in rent-burdened households last year. Rental increases also outpaced wage growth in 2018, the first time since 2011.

“There’s a lot of factors for why that might be but on a very macro level, I think this economic expansion has been one that hasn’t [benefited] low-income households very well,” Popov said. “That shift was a bit surprising especially given that … we’ve seen a lot of high-income renters flooding in the rental market. In some ways, they’ve been padding the stats, so to speak, because they’ve come in and they’ve typically been able to afford their rentals, so they’ve made it look like things are getting better but this year, I guess we went in the wrong direction.”

From 2017 to 2018, there were nearly 300,000 more cost-burdened rental households throughout the U.S., which Popov described as “a big change in the number of people that have gone from being able to afford their housing to technically living in a place that they’re unable to afford.”

“You risk them moving away and that could both affect the economy and the economic diversity of a city when the renters move away, and you risk not being able to attract talent to grow the economy, and you risk not having basically that next generation being able to come and move to the city to keep it vibrant,” Popov said. “I think of this on a city-by-city basis and on that level, there are a lot of markets where maybe the flag isn’t being raised for the first time — maybe it’s been raised for a while.”

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