The US had a severe housing affordability crisis long before coronavirus hit. In 2018, close to half of all renters spent more than a third of their income on rent. Home prices are rising faster than wages in roughly 80 percent of American metro regions. Rural America has seen steep increases in housing costs — as well as in the number of households spending at least half of their income on housing. And all this was before we began seeing record numbers of businesses shuttering and workers being laid off in the wake of Covid-19.
The combination of coronavirus and America’s unaffordable housing system has resulted in a disquieting paradox: At the same time that public health officials are warning that staying at home, away from others, is essential to preventing the rapid transmission of coronavirus, huge swaths of Americans are finding it harder and harder to come up with the money needed to keep a roof over their heads.