Frontline workers said to be most at risk of housing shortages



Middle-income healthcare workers and frontline workers are said to be at heightened risk of housing shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study has found.

The Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing reported last week that the financial impact of the pandemic, combined with a surge in home prices over the last year, has meant that healthcare and other frontline workers, as well as those who are at risk of income disruption, are struggling with housing shortages.

That’s according to the ULI’s latest Home Attainability Index, which ranks the affordability of housing for specific groups. It found that median-wage geriatric nurses, cardiac technicians and long-haul truck drivers for example, can only afford to rent a modest two-bedroom apartment in more than 50% of the U.S. regions it analyzed.

The 2021 Home Attainability Index identifies the gaps in home attainability across the country and the occupations that have been affected the most by the global pandemic. It measures 30 housing- and equity-related metrics across categories like affordability, homeownership attainability, rental attainability, neighborhood opportunity, and access and housing production.

Michael A. Spotts, author of the report and a visiting research fellow at ULI’s Terwilliger Center for Housing, said the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic downturn has exacerbated previously existing patterns of housing insecurity and racial and socioeconomic inequality.

“We are staring in the face of a situation in which many of the people who were critical in getting the population at large through this crisis face years of economic uncertainty and hardship as the country recovers,” Spotts said.

The report found that the most severe cost burden among middle-income households is seen in the most populous regions of the U.S. But the housing shortage is a widespread issue that is affecting middle-income workers throughout the nation, the ULI said.

Areas that scored high on affordability but poorly on racial and income segregation include Toledo, Ohio; Cleveland; Cincinnati; Birmingham, Ala.; Charlotte, N.C.; Winston-Salem, N.C.; St. Louis; Scranton, Pa.; and Louisville, Ky., the report found. Meanwhile, cities including San Diego; Los Angeles; Riverside, Calif.; Stockton, Calif.; Denver; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Portland, Ore.; Las Vegas; and Seattle scored high on housing equity by low on affordability.

The report goes on to highlight several recommendations for the government to support frontline and other economically disrupted workers, including the continuation of eviction protections that were put in place at the start of the pandemic, for the duration of the crisis. It also recommends providing ongoing rental assistance to support very-low-income households, developing policies and funding streams that address the burden of deferred rent and mortgage payments, and providing capital to maintain and preserve the viability of housing stock that serves lower-income households.

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