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More than 22 million rental units, a little over half the rental housing in the country, are in single-family buildings with between one and four units, according to data compiled by the Urban Institute. And most of those buildings have a mortgage — meaning the property owners themselves still need to make their own monthly payments.
“In a four-unit building, if one person can’t pay rent you’ve just lost 25 percent of your income,” Pinnegar said.
Most of the units are owned by mom-and-pop landlords, many of whom invested in property to save for retirement. Now they’re dealing with a dramatic drop in income, facing the prospect of either trying to sell their property or going into debt to meet financial obligations including mortgage and insurance payments, property taxes, utilities and maintenance costs. If enough landlords can no longer make those payments, it would threaten everything from the school budgets funded by property taxes to the stability of the $11 trillion U.S. mortgage market itself.
Six months into the crisis, millions of tenants can no longer meet their rent — and the situation is only getting worse. Tenants already owe some $25 billion in back rent and will owe nearly $70 billion by the end of the year, according to an estimate last month by Moody’s Analytics.