COVID -19 Weekly Summary

A weekly review of commentary and perspectives about COVID-19 implications on communities and places.

This week the focus is housing. There has been a housing affordability crisis for some time in the US.

I’m a boomer, so owning a home was the pathway to increased wealth and the “American Dream”. I followed the “normal” path – finished college, entered the workplace, got married, rented an apartment, saved and eventually bought a single-family duplex in the suburbs, started a family, took a better job, needed more room, moved and bought a “real house” (single-family, a 1-acre lot) and have remained there for over 30 years.

pexels-photo-4036300 housing sub
Pexels 2017

But guess what, my housing needs have evolved and changed! I am of the “age” that I don’t want to mow the lawn ( remember 1 acre!), shovel the snow and now as “empty nesters” don’t want and need the space and all the associated “stuff”. Time to downsize!

But the ability to buy or even rent a house has drastically changed not only for us boomers but also for millenniums, Gen Xers and others.

Now COVID-19 adds additional uncertainty to an already stressed housing market.

The first two articles provide the reasons for the current housing crisis and the elements that produce housing in the US.

This sets the stage last two commentaries – how and why the COVID-19 will impact housing.

The affordable housing crisis, explained Blame policy, demographics, and market forces

Curbed, Patrick Sisson, Jeff Andrews, and Alex Bazeley Updated March 2, 2020

This article,  part of Curbed’s Primer on the Housing Affordability crisis series, provides a compelling list of factors driving up the cost of housing.   One factor perhaps not fully recognized, but now a major issue is transportation costs.

“The affordability of housing  isn’t all about the housing itself: As rising rents and home prices push low- and middle-income households farther from major urban centers—where the greatest number of jobs and the most robust public transit systems tend to be—lower housing costs in suburbs and exurbs get offset by increased spending on transportation.”

421-MN_AffordableHousingMPLS-2 april 2020
Photo by Carolyn Torma (CC BY-NC 4.0) Copyright 2007 American Planning Association

Who’s to blame for high housing costs? It’s more complicated than you think.

Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, Jenny Schuetz, Fellow –  January 17, 2020

This piece……..lays ” out some basic facts about the financial ecosystem of housing development, and discuss the ways land use regulations affect development decisions. How do regulatory barriers impact the profitability of a new housing development? And how are the costs of development (including complying with regulations) shared among developers, lenders, and investors?”

So what happens next because of COVID-19?

How Coronavirus is Impacting the Housing market

Curbed, Jeff Andrews, Updated April 9, 2020

This sums up the uncertainly and daily change that could worsen the demand and supply balance as well as the financial infrastructure needed to find shelter, a basic human need.

“But the coronavirus has changed everything, and new details every day alter what the landscape for homebuying could look like after the pandemic passes. While studies of previous pandemics suggest that home prices won’t drop all that much, the economic fallout of COVID-19 could be sweeping.”

Pexels, July 20, 2017

When This Crisis Ends, People Will Still Need A Place To Live

Atticus LeBlanc, Forbes Councils Member, April 14, 2020

This commentary adds another opinion on how COVID-19 will impact housing.

“America’s housing policies operate under assumptions: Single-family housing is good; multifamily housing is bad, and many people sharing one house is worse. A wave of people looking for shelter in the wake of economic dislocation will challenge those assumptions that history already proved wrong a long time ago.”

Reading this and other related materials have called into question my planning training, education, beliefs, and work experiences. But the facts clearly show that housing is a crisis, needing attention and collaboration, not fixing blame, now more than ever.

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