New Data Reveals Depth of Renter Debt in the Bay Area and Statewide

March 15, 2021

Dear Atlas users,

As we mark a full year since the beginning of the Bay’s shelter-in-place ordinance, our neighbors who already faced the burdens of structural racism and extreme inequality have been most impacted by the pandemic’s health and economic impacts. The Atlas team continues to partner with local advocates and policy leaders to bring equity to the forefront of our region’s recovery. Here are a few highlights:

Bay Area Renters Face Mounting Debt
Following up on our eviction risk analyses for Bay Area counties, today we released a new analysis and fact sheet describing rent debt and eviction risk in the Bay Area region. Using Census Household Pulse Survey data for the region from late January, we find that 137,500 renter households are experiencing rent shortfall and potentially face eviction if not covered by an effective eviction moratorium. We estimate that they owe about $488 million in debt.

Racial Equity Data Hub Analyzes Black Prosperity in the Bay Area
Last month, the Tableau Foundation launched its Racial Equity Data Hub, in partnership with the National Equity Atlas. The Hub is designed to provide data and tools needed to understand racism in all of its forms, and to enable movement leaders to effectively use data to advocate for change. The Atlas team worked with Tableau expert Chantilly Jaggernauth of Lovelytics to produce two visualizations for the Hub. Our visualization “How is the Black population doing in the Bay Area?” presents indicators of economic and political inclusion, education, and justice for the region’s Black population. Tableau invites community members to participate in shaping the Hub’s future growth through this forum.

Atlas Findings Power Policy Change in Contra Costa County
We were happy to participate in the Contra Costa Budget Justice Coalition’s presentation to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors on equity and racial justice issues with the pandemic on February 9. Contra Costa County has the most households that are behind on their water bills of all counties in the region: about 30,595 households have water debt. The presentation prompted local officials to begin plans to allocate aid to households with water arrearages.

New California Eviction Risk Data Released
In partnership with Housing Now!, the Atlas team released an updated analysis of rent debt in California. We found that over 814,000 households were behind on rent in January, or 14 percent of all renter households. Renters owe an estimated $2.4 billion in rent debt — or $2,900 per household. Immediate action, including debt forgiveness and stronger eviction protections, is crucial to ensure renters with low income and renters of color are included in an equitable recovery. Find the analysis here.

Sharing Atlas Research at UC Berkeley Housing Solutions Event
On March 12, the Berkeley Opportunity Lab hosted an afternoon of talks with Bay Area housing experts aimed at generating new insights and solutions to the challenges of housing supply and affordability, homelessness and displacement, and the question of how to ensure broad and equitable economic development. Sarah Treuhaft, Vice President of Research at PolicyLink, shared our rent debt research at the event alongside Senator Scott Weiner, and panelists from SPUR, TechEquity Collaborative, and UC Berkeley.

Atlas in the News
Media outlets continue to cover our rent debt and eviction risk research, including San Jose Spotlight, CBS San Francisco, San Luis Obispo Tribune, KSRO, and KFBK. Find a full list of our media coverage here.

Thank you,

Bay Area Equity Atlas team