Respect Equality

Asian Americans and Hispanics less likely to receive rental assistance, report says

Asian Americans had a 60 percent lower likelihood of applying for rent relief in California. When it came to receiving rent relief, Asian Americans were half as likely to have received public assistance compared to white renters.
In this Oct. 20, 2020 file photo, a man walks in front of a For Rent sign in a window of a residential property in San Francisco. California has been slow to distribute rental assistance money for residents struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, and the state risks forfeiting hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds, auditors said Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. Jeff Chiu/ AP

Story at a glance

  • Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles put out a report that analyzed pandemic-era rent relief programs in California. 

  • They found an estimated 14 percent of California renters were behind on rent. 

  • Only 11 percent of Asians and 14 percent of Latinos who applied for rent relief were approved for it.  

As Americans struggled through the coronavirus pandemic, many low-income households fell behind on rent payments. That was especially true for renters of color, as a new report found Asian and Latino renters in California were disproportionately excluded from critical aid.  

Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) analyzed Census Bureau data alongside California’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program and published their results in a new report. They found significant disparities in those who experienced financial distress, applied for rental-assistance programs and were approved for aid.  

An estimated 14 percent of California renters were behind on rent from July 21 to Jan. 10 — and 15 percent feared eviction. 

Of those behind on rent, 18 percent were Asian, another 18 percent Black and 17 percent Latino. Only 8 percent identified as white. 


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Researchers found that among distressed renters in California, those with low incomes were more likely to apply for rental assistance. However, Asian American and Latino renters were less likely to apply for rent relief, with only 25 percent of Asians applying and 39 percent of Latinos. In comparison, 64 percent of Black distressed California renters and 48 percent of white ones applied. 

Limited English proficiency and immigration status were two barriers researchers identified that likely influenced those application rates.

Many immigrants are distrustful of government programs, and those who aren’t naturalized yet are worried their participation in public safety-net programs could identify them as a public charge. 

Notably, researchers also found that upper income renters were more likely to receive rental relief than low-income households, even though the latter had significantly higher application rates.  

Only 11 percent of Asians and 14 percent of Latinos that applied for rent relief were approved for it. About 20 percent of Black applicants and 21 percent of white applicants received rent relief. 

Researchers calculated that compared to distressed renters who were white, Asian Americans had a 60 percent lower likelihood of applying for rent relief. When it came to receiving rent relief, Asian Americans were half as likely to have received public assistance compared to white applicants. 

The results for Latinos were similar, with researchers calculating they were about half as likely as white renters to have applied for and received public rent relief. 

There are ways to make public assistance systems stronger and more targeted to those who need them, with the report suggesting extending ERAP until the employment rates for all racial and ethnic groups reach pre-pandemic levels. It also recommended implementing outreach programs by partnering with trusted community-based organizations that eligible households trust. 

Ensuring public aid like rental assistance reaches those who need it most is important as Pew Research found renters accounted for 36 percent of the country’s 122.8 million households in 2019. Young people, racial and ethnic minorities and those with lower incomes are more likely to rent. These groups are also assumed to be disproportionately affected as eviction moratoriums are lifted across the country. 


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