Study from affordable housing provider queried families nationwide on Covid-related housing and financial woes; results point to vulnerability of existing affordable housing and urgent need for more


A new study conducted by The NHP Foundation (NHPF) found that over half of parents of school-age children in rental housing spend at least a few hours worrying about their housing situation as a result of the pandemic. In over one-third of cases, parents worry about housing for “most of the day.”

NHPF undertook the study, From Financial Crisis to Coronavirus: Rental Housing Vulnerability in a Decade of Economic Turmoil to determine how today’s renters of affordable housing have been impacted by the pandemic as well as persistent racial inequities and a highly charged political environment. Many of these same renters may have also experienced economic duress during the 2009 financial crisis resulting in similar housing hardships.

The findings are based on answers from 1,000 renters earning less than $75,000 per year with half of those surveyed earning less than $30,000 a year.

Housing and emotional and physical well-being:

  • 8% of parents of school-age children in rental housing spend a minimum of a few hours worrying about their housing situation as a result of the pandemic. In over one-third of cases, (38%) the time spent is as much as “most of the day”
  • The greatest single worry for these parents is fear of contracting Covid-19 (41%) followed by affording rent (28%)
  • Political/social justice stressors impacted parents in the west the highest with 15% of those queried ranking it “most worrisome”

Takeaway: During this unprecedented time of uncertainty and fear, our findings of “high anxiety” about health support those of a recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) study showing that the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession have negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for those already suffering health problems.

Dan Field, executive director, Community Health & External Affairs, Kaiser-Permanente “These findings confirm that housing is one of the most critical social determinants of health. Even while we are fighting this pandemic, if we want our country healthy again we must redouble our efforts to break down barriers to affordable housing and healthcare for all Americans.”

Housing stability and rent:

  • 50% of parents surveyed claim their housing situation was negatively impacted in 2020
  • 34% have missed rent payments, up from 12% who missed such payments anytime during the previous decade
  • The majority of those surveyed who missed rent payments owed between $1,000-$4,999
  • Slightly more than 10% of these renters felt a financial squeeze in the last decade and 68% of them reported owing rent payments also between $1,000-$4,999 at some point during the decade

Takeaway: The eviction moratorium means many of these renters are able to stay in their current housing, however the Aspen Institute finds that tens of millions of people owing back rent may soon be forced out of their homes even with the extension of the eviction moratorium

Jenny Schuetz, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution says, “The Covid-19 pandemic has had devastating impacts on renters’ economic, physical, and emotional well-being. Stable, decent quality, affordable housing is a critical component of the social safety net, and should be funded accordingly.”

Finances and employment:

  • 56% of parents are experiencing a somewhat to very negative financial impact due to Covid-19
  • The greatest financial impact for the same group has been through a loss of at least some working hours (38 %) followed closely by total loss of employment (33%)
  • Fathers reporting are experiencing a loss of employment of 40% compared to 32% of mothers

Takeaway: According to the society of Human Resource Managers, (SHRM) 2020 was the worst year for job losses on record. Over 9.4 million jobs were lost by year-end, overtaking the 5 million jobs lost in 2009 during the Great Recession. The coronavirus pandemic led to 22 million job losses in March and April 2020. About half of those jobs have been recovered since then.

Alexander Alonso, PhD, SHRM-SCP, Chief Knowledge Officer, SHRM says, “Whether workers have faced a decrease, or worse a total loss, of income during the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of these Americans are ready and willing to begin working again. It’s imperative to focus recovery efforts on increasing job opportunities so these individuals can find productive work, improve their family’s financial situation, and further contribute to overall economic recovery.”

Family and the pandemic:

  • Parents were asked about difficulties their children are having due to the pandemic. The number one response was the “inability to see friends/family” at 43.6%
  • Nearly a third (31%) cited “difficulty adjusting to social norms” (masks, social distancing) and 26% found difficulty adjusting to remote learning
  • When asked about resources for maintaining stable housing, help from family and friends ranked highest (60%), and assistance from landlord and management companies ranked second highest at 28%

Takeaway: First Focus on Children, the bipartisan advocacy organization, found that during the pandemic, economic volatility could lead to harmful outcomes for children. The public health and economic emergencies are widening income inequality and the economic hardships are falling heavier on households with children because they experience higher rates of job loss and decreased wages.

Susan Heinlen Spalding, MD, Senior Medical Advisor, Children’s Health Fund “Covid-19’s economic devastation disproportionately impacts children, especially in Black and brown families, threatening long-term health and wellbeing. Access to stable, safe, affordable housing, along with other resources and supports, like medical care and rental funds is absolutely vital and our partners provide such assistance to prevent families from living in cars or other unsafe places.”

The survey findings are a real-time reminder of the dire need for more housing that is affordable to more Americans. “Although we’re not out of the pandemic yet, we see positive signs in 2021 for the creation of more quality service-enriched affordable housing,” says NHPF President & CEO Richard Burns, “Once businesses are profitable again, pricing of tax credits will increase, the 4% minimum LIHTC rate will make thousands more affordable housing developments possible and we are looking at a federal government that will be generally more receptive towards affordable housing.”

NHPF’s From Financial Crisis to Coronavirus: Rental Housing Vulnerability in a Decade of Economic Turmoil is the eighth survey in a series. Other surveys have queried college grads, seniors and millennials about housing affordability, money myths and retirement. The complete series can be found here.


About The NHP Foundation

Headquartered in New York City with offices in Washington, DC, and Chicago, IL, The NHP Foundation (NHPF) was launched on January 30, 1989, as a publicly supported 501(c)(3) not-for-profit real estate corporation. NHPF is dedicated to preserving and creating sustainable, service-enriched multifamily housing, and single-family homes that are both affordable to low and moderate income families and seniors, and beneficial to their communities. Through Family-Centered Coaching, NHPF’s subsidiary Operation Pathways engages with, and assists, families experiencing poverty and other hardship, to problem-solve together. Through partnerships with major financial institutions, the public sector, faith-based initiatives, and other not-for-profit organizations, NHPF has 57 properties, including nearly 10,000 units, in 16 states and the District of Columbia. For more information, please visit http://www.nhpfoundation.org.

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