Commentary from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) said the current crisis presents an opportunity to improve the economy. One of the ways to do so is to change how housing is thought of.
The piece was authored by Michael Stegman, a Senior Research Fellow at JCHS, a senior housing policy fellow at the Milken Institute Center for Financial Markets, a Senior Fellow in the Center for Household Financial Stability at the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Community Capital at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Stegman said a house and neighborhoods play a critical role in a household member’s life.
“Housing-related issues are responsible for as much as 40% of children’s asthma episodes, and research indicates that moving an asthmatic child from poor-quality housing into a healthier home reduces asthma-related doctor visits by 66%,” he said in the report.
He added that COVID-19 has been a spotlight on the homeless as well as eviction and foreclosures. The report says that the U.S. Department of Education reports there are more than 1.3 million public school students are classified as homeless—2.6% of the total public-school population. This segment has also risen 70% over the past decade.
Two members of Congress have put forth proposals to help prevent Americans from losing their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-California) introduced the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act of 2020 to provide financial assistance to struggling homeowners and renters, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) introduced the Protecting Renters from Evictions and Fees Act of 2020.
In a statement to the House of Representatives, Waters said the nation was facing an affordable housing crisis even before the pandemic, and now “With so many families struggling as a result of the pandemic, we are now on the precipice of an eviction and homelessness crisis like we’ve never seen in our lifetimes.”
Another way to rethink housing is to end exclusionary zoning.
“Exclusionary zoning and land use controls continue to block low-income and minority Americans from moving to opportunity-rich neighborhoods and communities by rising construction costs and restricting new supply,” he said.
JCHS states that according to one estimate, it is illegal to build anything other than a single-family home on 75% of residential space in many American cities.