HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Monday, April 19, 2021

A Pandemic Meets a Housing Crisis

Courtney Anderson (Georgia State University), A Pandemic Meets a Housing Crisis, COVID-19 Policy Playbook: Legal Recommendations for a Safer, More Equitable Future. Boston: Public Health Law Watch

As we write in early 2021, there is a COVID-19 vaccine, a new president but, unfortunately, the same racial and socioeconomic inequities attributable to housing that have become more entrenched in the fabric of this country. A person’s housing status and the quality of that housing have a significant impact on the individual’s health. Homelessness can be a death sentence and anything that makes it more difficult to pay rent is a step closer to losing shelter, with government intervention as the only hope. If a family can only afford to live in substandard housing with overcrowding, allergens, or in a hazardous neighborhood, this adversely impacts mental and physical health. The short-term solutions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act, 2020) and the Consolidated Appropriations Act did not begin to address decades of injustice that have exposed communities of color to health risks. The Biden administration has extended the eviction moratorium, and increased the level of federal reimbursement to states and cities that provide sheltering for people who are homeless and are also likely to experience high-risk, but federal action by itself is not enough: a multi-level approach is needed to ensure the long-term effects of the public health crisis are addressed. State and local actors must enact laws that provide resources to stave off an eviction crisis, ensure stable and affordable housing, and provide anti-poverty measures that would reduce environmental stressors that intensify and create chronic disease. This Chapter describes the pandemic’s effect on racial housing and health disparities before providing details on the most important federal, state and local actions that will mitigate these injustices on a more permanent basis. This paper was prepared as part of the COVID-19 Policy Playbook: Legal Recommendations for a Safer, More Equitable Future, a comprehensive report published by Public Health Law Watch in partnership with the de Beaumont Foundation and the American Public Health Association.

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