America’s health crisis could soon become a housing crisis.
By Derek Thompson and cross-posted from The Atlantic.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a historical accelerant. It has compressed 10 years of online-shopping growth into a few months, bankrupted chains that were in steady decline, hastened Democratic gains in the Sun Belt, sped up an urban exodus from America’s most expensive cities, and persuaded my grandmother to finally use Instacart. All of this was bound to happen eventually. The coronavirus just mashed its big fat thumb on the fast-forward button.
And now a housing problem years in the making is dangerously close to spiraling out of control.
Before the pandemic, half of U.S renters spent 30 percent of their income on housing. The poorest quintile of Americans spent more than half their income on rent, on average. Even in a healthy economy, housing costs were eating workers’ wages.
Then the plague hit, and low-income workers were hit hardest. With the face-to-face economy shut down, the retail and leisure industries shed tens of millions of jobs in a matter of weeks. An analysis by the NYU Furman Center found that in New York City, the households most likely to face an “economic disruption”—including losing a job, or having hours cut back—spent the highest share of their income on housing…