Virginia Tech expert: Housing evictions could lead to a second-wave public health crisis

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Millions of Americans are behind on their rent and mortgage payments, and unless Congress acts quickly, as many as 28 million people could be evicted from their homes in the coming months.

Eviction protection and enhanced unemployment benefits have either run out – or will run out shortly – for those on the edge of housing instability.

“Housing is the foundation of family well-being and housing stability is fundamental to maintaining health and security,” said Mel Jones, associate director at the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech. “Stress related to unstable housing has repercussions for children, their development, academic achievement, and later their careers and economic opportunity.”

Evictions also have the potential to lead to a second-wave public health crisis during the current pandemic, according to Jones.

“When households become homeless, they resort to substandard, inadequate housing,” she said.  “They will double up with family members or friends, overcrowding those housing units or they will be forced into temporary shelter, whether a car or a church full of beds. They no longer have control over their own environment and well-being and now present risks for containing the virus.”

The urgency of now

“This is the time to offer rent protection, a safety net for our country’s worker and our neighbors. Offering rent assistance will support individual household, housing providers, landlords, our communities and our economies.”

“Many American households face rents and housing costs that do not allow them to save for emergencies or crises. In the absence of federal investment, it is now coming down to states, regions and local communities to ensure that their residents can find affordable housing that allows them to be financially secure.”

“Get involved! We have to tell our local, state, and national representatives that housing stability and financial security for everyone is important. The most immediate action we can take is advocacy. Next, we have to get involved in our local communities and be willing to invest in the well-being of our neighbors in order to build a better future for everyone.”

Mel Jones is a research scientist with the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech with expertise in housing affordability, economics, housing data, and urban planning.


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