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Coronavirus layoffs threaten minority groups with housing insecurity

By Mike Wheatley | May 3, 2020

Massive job losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic have touched nearly every industry in some fashion, but perhaps none more so than food, arts and retail workers.

And a new Zillow analysis shows that Latinx, Asian and black households will feel the impact of layoffs in these industries most significantly.

More than 22 million Americans have filed unemployment insurance claims over the past four weeks, including many in the food, arts and retail industries. Latinx, Asian and black workers are disproportionately represented in these jobs compared to white workers - nationwide, 8.3% of white workers are employed in these industries, compared with 12.7% of Latinx workers, 10.2% of Asian workers and 10.1% of black workers.

This is compounded by these non-white households typically facing a greater rent burden, meaning after they pay rent they have less left over for other expenses or to save for an economic hardship. Typical renter households that receive the majority of their income from these industries are below or near the accepted 30% guideline for the amount of income spent on rent for each race included in Zillow's analysis. White households in these industries spend 25.1% of their income on rent, black households spend 28.3% on rent, Latinx households are right at 30% and Asian households are just over at 30.6%.

For lower-income households that are already bumping against the affordability threshold, an income shock can push them into housing insecurity. If these workers were to go without income for two months, only white households would stay within the affordability guideline at 29.4% -- black households would jump to 33.2% of income spent on rent, Latinx households to 34.8% and Asian households to 35.7%. In a more severe scenario where workers would go four months without pay, that would rise to 35.3% for white households and at least 40% for non-white households.

"This analysis highlights the financial tightrope many households walk in our vital service industries," said Skylar Olsen, senior principal economist at Zillow. "While it's encouraging that many who receive government assistance appear to be on solid footing for a few months, it's important to remember that some workers will see labor disruptions, such as a loss of hours, that don't qualify them for these unemployment benefits that are so crucial right now. And if the pandemic were to last beyond the summer, it could have lasting impacts that push many more into housing insecurity."

Mike Wheatley is the senior editor at Realty Biz News. Got a real estate related news article you wish to share, contact Mike at [email protected].
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