COVID Exposes Importance of Housing

Housing is more than a basic need – it’s a key component to good health and wellness, according to a recent article published in Fast Company. Amid the economic fallout from the pandemic, the article shares that healthcare is more needed and more precarious than ever and is intricately linked to the quality of housing. It is impossible to separate the quality of one’s health from the quality of one’s housing conditions.

Quality housing acts as a buffer against many types of illnesses resulting from poor living conditions, such as food instability, worsening asthma and allergies, lead dangers, poor insulation and faulty appliances. There are also psychological and behavioral issues caused by living in an inadequate environment.

As a result of the pandemic and financial hardships, many more Americans will become low income. Statistics from the National Low Income Housing Coalition show that for every 100 of the lowest income renters in the U.S.—who are often seniors and people with disabilities — there are fewer than 37 homes which are affordable and available to them. There are currently about 10 million very low-income renter households across the U.S. and the coalition estimates another 1.5 million will become very or extremely low-income as a result of the Coronavirus crisis and the subsequent financial fallout. This will add stress to an already stressed housing system.

What can be done to protect those hardest hit individuals who may be on the verge of homelessness? The CARES Act may help in allocating $4 billion to homeless assistance through the Emergency Solutions Grants program and $5 billion for Community Development Block Grants, to help preserve affordable housing which also can be used for emergency rental assistance. An additional $3 billion is directed to subsidized housing programs to make up for lost incomes. Keep in mind that when renters’ incomes go down, so does their ability to pay rent.

Property owners can play a part by reaching out to their residents, assessing needs and determining means of assistance. There is also an opportunity to invest in affordable housing stock. At some point, Congress is expected to turn to a stimulus package to infuse the economy. Constructing affordable housing is one way to do this. The National Association of Home Builders shares that building 100 affordable rental homes can generate $11.7 million in local income, $2.2 million in taxes and local government revenue and create 161 local jobs in the first year. Consider how you can play a role in helping turn the tide in making more affordable housing available. 

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