A Rent Wipeout Could Ignite a Mortgage Crisis

(Bloomberg Opinion) — The rent is too high. And that’s causing consternation across Wall Street desks still traumatized by the 2008 financial crisis.

As the days go by in an unprecedented shutdown of the U.S. economy to slow the coronavirus outbreak, any amount of rent looks increasingly difficult to cover for a wide swath of Americans, from recently fired service workers to local small-business owners. Unfortunately for those most affected, these payments can’t simply be wiped out — at least, not without dire repercussions. My Bloomberg Opinion colleague Noah Smith wrote a column this week arguing that people need a break on all sorts of debts. But when it comes to rent, there’s pretty much no way around people eventually paying what they owe, ideally with the help of the U.S. government, or else risk “turning a health crisis into a banking crisis.”