Metro Atlanta tenants hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and rising housing costs are still seeking emergency rent relief—and people of color are the most severely affected, according to two new reports using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey.

Over 8% of renters in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell metro statistical area applied for federal rental aid from state and local agencies in the first two months of the year, according to a new report from housing software company Porch. But fewer than half of the applicants, 46.8%, were able to secure assistance.

Although 11% of metro Atlanta renters reported they were behind on rent payments, the figure is double for minority renters, with 22.5% owing back rent, according to new research from Construction Coverage, an online construction industry resource. Construction Coverage used Household Pulse Survey data from July 21, 2021 through Jan. 10.

That’s nearly 141,000 minority renters who reported they’re late on rent payments in metro Atlanta. Of those, almost half said they’re at risk of eviction, according to Construction Coverage’s report.

Worsening the situation, many emergency rental assistance (ERA) programs have been inundated with requests for help, leaving some agencies, like the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, struggling to disburse money efficiently

In Atlanta, as nationally, people of color have been disproportionately affected by financial fallout from the pandemic.

Nationwide, 21% of minority renters said they’ve fallen behind on payments, consistent with the Atlanta figure of 22.5%. Of those, fully 45.4% said they face the likelihood of eviction. That’s lower than for Atlanta, where 49.3% of those behind on rent said they’re in danger of eviction.

The daunting backdrop for renters already feeling squeezed financially: Spiking housing costs have further strained Atlanta’s already pricey rental market. In the metro area alone, a typical two-bedroom unit costs 26% more than it did in 2017, according to Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) data. 

The city is also losing affordable homes at a rapid pace: Nearly 1,900 homes renting below $1,250 per month vanished each year between 2014 and 2019, according to the ARC research.

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