Is the pandemic pushing the US into a housing crisis?
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many of the inequalities in US society, one of the prime ones being accessibility to safe and affordable housing. Here, we look at how the pandemic is pushing the country into a housing crisis and what can be done about it.
Like countries all across the world, states in America have put strict public health measures into place to reduce the spread of the virus. In many areas, there was already a problem with housing – many families who rent were living in unsuitable accommodation, with the threat of eviction hanging over their head at the best of times. Throw in a global pandemic, lockdowns, loss of jobs, and economic turmoil and suddenly, even those who didn’t think they were in a precarious situation find themselves worrying every month: can they pay the rent? Can they pay the mortgage?
The truth is that while the measures are helping to reduce the spread of the virus – and of course, that is vital – they are also increasing housing instability for millions of people.
Some are more fortunate than others in that once the worse of the pandemic is over, they will be able to claw their way back. Tiffany Bucher of Foreclosure Excess Proceeds talks about improving credit scores after foreclosure and starting again. However, for others, it will not be that simple. What can be done to help prevent homelessness from becoming a reality for so many people?
In order to reduce the risk of evictions, immediate rent freezes for the duration of the pandemic and a reasonable period after could be put into place. This takes away some of the pressure on renters, although it can put landlords under more of a financial burden. To overcome this, a government-funded relief package could be put into place to help any landlords adversely affected by it.
Implement mortgage forgiveness policies
For those who own their own home, it can be even more unnerving, as it can lead to foreclosure. The UK has had three month mortgage ‘vacations’ in place during the pandemic, where homeowners can pause payments on their mortgage and make it up at the other end. This is something that could be considered or just a little more leeway is given to those who are struggling to make the full payments on time.
Universal basic income
This is a rather significant and controversial solution, but one that has been touted as a possible temporary solution. The idea behind a universal basic income.* is that everyone is provided with the means to pay for the bare essentials for living. This prevents the admin headaches that come with mean testing for welfare and benefits and means everyone theoretically has enough to get by for the duration of the crisis.
Will these measures work to stop the US from going deeper into a housing crisis? We don’t know. One thing is clear though: something needs to be done otherwise there will be a new epidemic sweeping the nation: homelessness.