Moving during the pandemic? If you’re a Black woman, here’s some things you need to know

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OPINION: Black women have to work much harder while working with less, but we can thrive even under these circumstances by helping each other

Having to move during a pandemic can be daunting, and if you’re a Black woman renter, statistics show that you will be hit harder, pay more in rent and endure systematic racism. 

There are advantages, however, to being equipped with information and aligned with organizations that can help. 

Read More: 751,000 seek US jobless benefits as virus hobbles economy

Zillow, the world’s leading real estate and rental marketplace proprietor of rentals, recently released data that suggest that Black and brown women have been hit hardest during the pandemic for more reasons than we originally thought. Obvious factors include unemployment and loss of loved ones that has caused Black and brown women to be the sole financial caregiver to their families. Working mothers were three times more likely than working fathers to cite child care as the main reason they were out of work, due to online schooling and the closing of child care centers.

This pandemic-driven economic downturn has taken a disproportionate toll on Black women, leading some to pay exorbitant amounts on their housing, much more than any other ethnicity. According to Zillow’s analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data, 45 percent of female renter households are cost-burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing, compared to 36 percent of male renter households. Nearly a quarter (24%) of female renter households are severely cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than half their income on housing.

Black Family house
Housing For Young Family Concept. Young Black Father, Mother And Daughter Sitting Under Symbolic Roof Dreaming Of New Home Over Yellow Background (Credit: Abode Stock)

“Fifty-three percent of unemployment claims are filed by women even though they make up 47% of the workforce. We found that a lot more women spend more of their income on rent if they head up the household,” says Cheryl Young, senior economist at Zillow. “If you are a Black woman who heads up the household, you spend 29%. Thirty percent is when we really start to worry about how much you are spending on rent. That becomes a situation where, at 30%, you start to cut back on other household expenses. We found that 71% of all rental households are headed by women who are single parents and if you look at Black female renter households, that’s 86%!”

In addition to housing insecurity, there is growing concern that Black and brown women will end up paying more in rent than their counterparts–due largely to the changing economic landscapes, financial challenges, and systematic racism. This has caused a disproportionately negative impact on these women, who are now more prominently heads of their households and sole breadwinners.  

“Going into this situation I knew that I would be faced with challenges,” says Keneisha Rogers, a mother and experienced leasing management professional. “Roughly three years ago, I made a tough call to support a family member causing me to have to break my lease. As an experienced professional in this field, I was prepared for an uphill battle that a broken lease would cause to my credit. I feel as though my experience has been the typical experience of a black woman in America…nothing ever comes easy. This particular move was very sudden and in my mind all I could think about was I needed somewhere safe for my children to lay their head.”

Realtor Tarita Boone says that Americans “live in a society that the color of your skin sometimes plays a part in the perception you will not take care of the rental or pay your rent.”

“This is a sad reality we live in. Unfortunately, to combat this you need to go in armed. Take past rental history of payments and receipts of your returned full security deposits,” Boone continues. “You may still encounter places where you are not the preferred tenant but, this will give you some leverage. There is also concern about the lasting effects this housing challenge will have on the financial and mental wellness of black women. I also think, as women, we have to really take a look at our credit history and scores.”

(Photo: Fotolia)

“We need to educate ourselves on what information landlords are looking at on our credit reports. We also need to be sure that when our credit is in order that we value our dollar and not someone else’s property more.”

Many Black and brown women faced with financial hurdles rely on support systems.  “It was challenging to find movers during the pandemic. It was scary to have to hire movers, so I reached out to my support system to help offset this expense, which brings its own set of challenges,” says April Heard, mother and full-time nursing student. “I immediately started to see apartment communities requiring larger deposits as a way to recoup their own losses or putting moratoriums on evictions in place soon after the U.S. started to reopen.” 

“The sooner renters prepare to resume payments, the better,” says Donna Doleman Dickerson, Chief Marketing Officer of Greenpath Financial Wellness in Farmington Hills, Michigan. “We are likely to see a wave of loan modifications, possibly foreclosures, if borrowers cannot resume payments after their forbearance period ends. We are here to help make that process easier.”

Black women have to work that much harder to keep up while working with less, but we have been able to thrive even under these circumstances by helping each other.

Read More: COVID-19 could impact racial homeownership gap: report

“Implicit bias is how a person may view a Black person or view their capacity or their abilities to pay the rent,” says Akua K. Boateng, Ph.D., LPC, a licensed psychotherapist. “That bias is what researchers found was pivotal in one person being able to rent a house and a landlord looking at them in comparison to their counterparts and expecting more of them because of this bias.”

She continues, “All of the layers of challenges that the world faces are always heavier on the Black community. So where do you go to heal when there are so many more layers of responsibility, and they are all essential and required? What makes this time different is that we are now restricted from those places that bring us healing, like the church and out with friends. Our homes have become our healing place.”

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