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Rent Crisis Spirals for Landlords Awaiting $47 Billion in Relief

Property owners are in danger of losing buildings or being forced to sell to wealthy investors.

The three-unit rental, left, that landlord Joaquin Villanueva owns in Boston.

The three-unit rental, left, that landlord Joaquin Villanueva owns in Boston.

Photographer: Harry Scales/Bloomberg

More than a year since Covid-19 lockdowns put millions of apartment dwellers out of work, almost $47 billion in U.S. government rent relief is hitting the streets. For many landlords, it’s coming much too slowly.

Joaquin Villanueva, an airport janitor who owns a three-unit rental house in East Boston, had to take out a home-equity loan just to pay the bills. One tenant, eight months behind on rent, vanished one night in March. An unemployed restaurant dish washer in another unit owes $5,000.