Report: Pandemic, Racial Injustice, Climate Change Magnify Housing Crisis
Despite low interest rates and continued growth in some sectors, the health and economic consequences of COVID-19 coupled with racial tensions and climate change across the nation have exacerbated the rental supply and affordability crises, according to the recent 2020 State of the Nation’s Housing report. Released by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS), the report can be found at www.jchs.harvard.edu/state-nations-housing-2020.
The report calls for a “comprehensive re-envisioning of national housing policy.” JCHS concludes more must be done to address the large number of individuals and families who are not able to secure affordable housing as rent increases and home prices continue to outstrip income growth. According to the report, this year’s traumatic events have delivered a wake-up call that access to affordable housing is an essential right, not only for the disadvantaged but also for the ability of entire communities to prosper. Here are some of the report findings.
Worsening Affordability for Renters
According to the report, the economic fallout from the pandemic has amplified the rental affordability crisis. As of late September, renters earning less than $25,000 a year were much more likely to report lost employment income since the March shutdown. More than half of lowest-income renters lost wages during this period, compared with 41 percent of all households, and roughly one in five renters earning less than $25,000 also said they were behind on rent.
Persistent Racial Disparities in Housing Markets
People of color are heavily concentrated in high-poverty neighborhoods and underrepresented in higher-income areas. Nearly two-thirds of the poor Black, Hispanic, and Native American populations live in communities with poverty rates above 20 percent, about twice the share of poor white Americans.
Devastating Effects of Climate Change
So far in 2020, the United States has experienced 16 distinct billion-dollar natural disasters, making this year one of the three worst on record. The cost of damages neared $50 billion as of September, surpassing the total for all of 2019. Climate change has also added to the number of low-income households facing energy insecurity. This was especially true during the record summer heat, when the need for air conditioning was extreme, which added to utility bills for households with access to air conditioning and threatened the health and lives of those without.