Abstract for: Housing and public health responses to COVID-19: Modeling efficient national housing assistance to flatten the eviction curve

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens mass evictions that undermine economic recovery and public health. Half of low-income American households report income loss due to the COVID-19 global recession, while half of low-income tenants fear eviction within two months. In response, federal policies halted evictions through March 2021 and allocated a total of $50 billion in housing assistance. Despite the unprecedented initiatives, questions remain regarding whether housing supports suffice to keep families housed and safe. Simulations estimate low-income tenants accumulate $14.1 billion in arrears prior to expiration of the eviction moratorium. The economic burden forces families into crowded accommodations and literal homelessness at double pre-pandemic levels. Initial federal housing assistance prevents 866,682 evictions and 11,475 foreclosures on low-income rental units; however, affordable housing dynamics elicit a tipping point for flattening the eviction curve. An efficient response requires universal allocation of three months rental assistance to all housing insecure households earning less than 150% of the poverty level. Federal responses to COVID-related housing and public health threats allocate sufficient funds to prevent mass evictions and keep families safe. Lack of infrastructure hinders rapid deployment of housing assistance for low-income tenants. Findings encourage continuation of the federal eviction moratorium as communities develop innovative approaches to target housing assistance.