Disaster Relief for America’s Housing Crisis

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Looking back on the years leading up to the COVID pandemic, we see that almost half of all renters in the U.S. were spending over 30% of their income on rent, and in 2016 there were almost 1 million evictions. Due to a lack of funding, only a quarter of eligible tenants seeking support were able to access housing vouchers—and, according to a recent article from Governing, federal housing aid has been steadily declining for decades now, while costs continue to inflate.

This pattern shifted when the pandemic began, as $75 billion of support for at-risk renters and homeowners was distributed to prevent evictions and foreclosures. Such a level of funding was spurred under the context that our country is facing an unprecedented and unpredictable emergency situation that is requiring disaster relief—in other words, framing the situation as “disaster relief” has enabled policymakers to establish new structures with much broader flexibility.

But should we be treating the housing crisis as a disaster that needs relief anyway, beyond the pandemic? Should we consider reutilizing the systems that have been set up during COVID to distribute federal aid, to alleviate the pressures of the housing market? That’s what host Abby Kinney and regular co-host Chuck Marohn discuss on this week’s episode of Upzoned, where they address this “wickedest of wicked problems” through the Strong Towns lens.

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