NLIHC Releases Interactive “Housing Instability and COVID-19 Map”

NLIHC released an interactive Housing Instability and COVID-19 Map, which helps visualize the extent of the need for housing assistance for low-income renters and people experiencing homelessness throughout the country. The map shows for each U.S. county the number of renters who are experiencing or are at-risk of housing instability, including extremely low-income renters who are severely housing cost-burdened or living in overcrowded conditions; the number of people experiencing homelessness in the Continuum of Care to which each county belongs; and which counties have confirmed COVID-19 cases.

One of the key findings in NLIHC’s recently released The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable and Available Homes is a shortage of seven million affordable and available homes for extremely low-income renters. Even before the COVID-19 public health and economic crises, nearly eight million extremely low-income renter households were spending more than half of their incomes on their housing, leaving them no ability to save for a future emergency and putting them just one financial shock away from housing instability. That financial shock is here. The Department of Labor announced that 3,283,000 new claims for unemployment insurance were filed in the week that ended March 21, nearly five times larger than any previous increase on record. Recent estimates have predicted that as many as 7.5 million jobs could be lost by June (EPI, 2020a and 2020b).

Severe housing cost burdens and housing instability have worrisome public health consequences. Households that suffer from housing instability, whether by struggling to pay the rent, moving from place to place, or experiencing homelessness, are more likely to have a range of adverse health conditions (Sandel et al., 2018; Stahre et al., 2015), and people experiencing homelessness are at higher risks for a number of health problems (Hwang, 2001). 

The spread of COVID-19 is especially dangerous for the more than 500,000 people experiencing homelessness nightly who cannot control their environments or isolate themselves as easily as others and who often have underlying health conditions. Culhane et al. (2020) estimate the pandemic is likely to cause approximately 21,000 hospitalizations and 3,400 deaths just among those experiencing homelessness. An economic crisis that pushes more low-income households into homelessness will amplify this risk. Another 700,000 renters with extremely low incomes live in overcrowded housing conditions, which also poses risks. The Housing Instability and COVID-19 Map makes clear that the spread of the virus and the looming economic crisis threatens millions of low-income families and people experiencing homelessness.

The Housing Instability and COVID-19 Map can be found at: