HOUSING AND HEALTH DURING COVID-19: AFFORDABILITY
Housing is a foundation for our lives; when we build from a place of stability and affordability, we see other areas of our lives, including health, wealth, and academic success, grow and prosper. However, the United States has long struggled with a housing crisis characterized by unaffordable housing costs and inadequate housing conditions.
This struggle for housing stability is not new. In 2018:
>> Across the U.S., 10-15% of all households were housing insecure.(1)
>> In Illinois, 10% of owners and 27% of renters were housing insecure.(1)
>> And 40% of homes in US metropolitan areas had at least one health and safety hazard.(2)
Looking at 2020
With a housing system that was already struggling to meet the needs of many Americans, the US saw new housing challenges arise with the outbreak of COVID-19. As public health concerns led to the closing of businesses and wide-spread layoffs across the country, the US unemployment rate spiked to 14.7% in April.(3) One result of this has been a new wave of housing instability, as many households are no longer able to make their rental and mortgage payments.
In April of 2020:
>> The number of people unable to make their housing payments rose significantly, with one national poll showing that nearly 1 in 3 renters in the US weren’t able to make their April rent payment in the first week of the month.(4)
>> For homeowners, the rate of mortgage delinquencies nearly doubled, rising from 3.39% in March to 6.45% in April - the largest monthly increase ever recorded.(3)
As a result, many households are now facing evictions, despite lawmakers’ efforts to protect them under The CARES Act. While evictions were frozen under this Act, the protections only covered homes with federally backed mortgages, properties that are federally-insured, and public housing, leaving out comprehensive, long-term support for homeowners and renters across the county.(5)
If you live in a multifamily property with five or more units, you can use this tool, published by the National Low Income Housing Association, to figure out whether the property where you live is covered under the CARES Act.
To find out whether Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac is the originator of your home loan, you can use this tool to search their databases.
Now, in June of 2020:
With the United States going on a third month of high unemployment and wide-spread business closures, an historical number of households are experiencing housing insecurity.
>> In one national opinion poll, 66% of households said that the amount they pay for housing is a concern. Within this number,
>> 44% said it is a big concern,
>> And 65% said their concern about their housing costs (both the amount they pay and their inability to make payments) has increased since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.(6)
>> Over half (54%) of all the people who responded to the same poll also expressed concern that they could lose their housing if additional assistance is not made available to help them cover their payments. This concern was expressed more prevalently by lower-income households and people of color.(6)
With so many households facing housing insecurity during a time in which the home has become a place of shelter, it is unclear how long we can go without taking strong, preventative action. In this new era of COVID-19, we are seeing the US’s housing crisis elevated to new heights, illuminated by a sharp, striking light.
With the link between housing and health becoming clearer than ever, we are committed to sharing news and information as it develops. This article is the first in a series that will look at the connection between COVID-19 and health and housing disparities, a relationship that cannot be ignored.
The Cost of Home Campaign
Join Habitat affiliates across the country through our Cost of Home Campaign as we make housing affordability a priority in this year’s elections, and call on all levels of government to develop long-term housing plans to improve home affordability and stability for families across the US.