The Importance of Housing Restoration in a Time of COVID-19

08-11-2020

Few issues affect families and communities as broadly as housing. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted reasons why safe, decent, and affordable housing is important. Imagine sheltering in place in an unsafe home, lacking resources to get health care because of high housing costs in your neighborhood, or being evicted due to job loss from the economic downturn. These are several examples of why COVID-19 is not only a health crisis, but a housing crisis.

Before shelter-in-place orders took effect, we spent more than two-thirds of our time at home. This time has only increased in the first half of 2020, meaning the condition of our homes and neighborhoods are impacting our safety and well-being more than ever.

Disproportionately high housing costs lead to budget trade-offs related to food and health care. According to Opportunity 360, in Census Tract 13 which represents much of the Tepe Park neighborhood, 44% of homeowners and 68.6% of renters are considered cost-burdened, meaning these households spend more than 30% of their income on housing. 31.69% of households in Census Tract 13 are severely cost-burdened, meaning that 31.69% of households are at or below 80% AMI and spend more than half of their income on housing costs (https://dashboards.mysidewalk.com/opportunity360-community-dashboard-eda3eebc96ff/housing-stability-39de32cd144b). Without jobs, keeping these disproportionately high payments requires having even less available resources for essentials such as food and health care.

The economic downturn has clearly affected lower-income neighbors more drastically. According to the Pew Research Center, 52% of lower-income adults in the U.S. say they or someone in their household has lost a job or taken a pay cut due to the pandemic, compared to 43% of U.S. adults. Additionally, 77% of lower-income adults do not have rainy day funds to help cover expenses for 3 months in case of job loss or sickness (https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/04/21/about-half-of-lower-income-americans-report-household-job-or-wage-loss-due-to-covid-19/#fn-28372-1 ). This leaves lower-income populations with more financial and housing instability as eviction and foreclosure moratoriums end.

COVID-19 precautions continue to impact our programs and the size of our volunteer activities. However, we continue to press forward in restoring homes, hope, and our community with small groups of volunteers and contractor partners. By continuing to work for safe, decent, and truly affordable housing in Evansville, we are contributing to stabilization for our hardest-hit communities in a time of increased financial uncertainty.

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