Low-income Asian Americans received the lowest rental aid amid COVID-19, study finds

  • A University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study examined the demographics of more than 534,000 California renters who applied to California's Emergency Rental Assistance Program between March 2021 and March 2022.
  • While 48% of distressed white renters and 64% of Black distressed renters applied for relief, only 25% of distressed Asian American renters did.
  • The study underscores the likelihood of unmeasured accessibility barriers such as limited English proficiency and immigration status, which could lead to lower applications among Asian Americans.

A new University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study on housing insecurity in California during the COVID-19 pandemic reveals that Asian Americans applied the least and received the lowest amount of rental assistance across all racial groups.

The study, titled “Housing Insecurity Persists for Renters of Color Amid the Covid-19 Pandemic,” examined the demographics of more than 534,000 California renters who applied for the state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program between March 2021 and March 2022, using the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey data.

The study found that 17% to 18% of Asian American, Black and Latino renters were behind on rent payments between July of last year to January of this year, compared to 8% of white renters.

The authors also found that Asian American renters applied for relief at the lowest rate.

While 48% of distressed white renters and 64% of distressed Black renters applied, only 25% of distressed Asian Americans renters did. Subsequently, only 11% of distressed Asian American renters received rent relief, the lowest across all racial groups.

The study’s authors believe that Asian Americans are also underrepresented in this study, likely because of unmeasured accessibility barriers such as limited English language proficiency and immigration status. Since the questionnaire was only offered in English and Spanish, it may had been difficult for those who are not fluent in either to participate.

The authors also suggest that immigrants, especially those who have not naturalized yet, may not trust government programs or fear their status could be jeopardized by applying for government aid. 

The study also reflected that 15% of Californians feared eviction within the next two months, while 14% were already behind on rent. And while the California COVID-19 Rent Relief Program allocated over $2.7 billion to assist both tenants and landlords with their rent or utilities, it has since closed applications.

California lawmakers recently passed AB 2179, which extends tenants’ protection from eviction to June 30, 2022 while they look for rental assistance.

Featured Image via @charlesdeluvio/Unsplash

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