The Impacts of COVID-19 on Housing in Boston

The Impacts of COVID-19 on Housing in Boston

Over the past few months, we’ve seen long-standing socioeconomic and racial inequities exposed at the local, regional and national levels, as the impacts of COVID-19 have disproportionately affected vulnerable individuals and families. During this moment of extreme hardship, change and reflection, it’s crucial that we examine the state of affordable housing and acknowledge the impact that the pandemic has had on stable housing for Black and Latinx families.

The first installment of The Boston Foundation’s Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2020 Series examines the impacts that COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis have had on housing stability. The report found that, while housing payments have remained relatively steady despite high unemployment numbers, many Massachusetts residents are making only partial payments, indicating that residents are falling behind on their rent or mortgage obligations. This differs from the national trend, which shows that unemployment benefits and the federal stimulus have helped residents keep up with their housing expenses. The disparity between Massachusetts and other parts of the nation is, in part, due to the Commonwealth’s housing crisis: a shortage of residential units has driven up competition and prices, making it more difficult for residents to cover housing and living costs with their stimulus money and unemployment benefits.

The report also discovered another troubling trend in Massachusetts: white households are more likely to be up-to-date with housing payments than non-white households. This issue was further explored in the series’ second installment, which analyzes the state of housing as it relates to racial equity. The report found that, Massachusetts remains one of the most segregated states in the country, with Black and Latinx residents more likely to live in areas with higher rates of poverty and fewer resources.

These two trends have recently reached a critical breaking point. A survey conducted by the Census Bureau's Household Pulse found that more than 315,000 Massachusetts residents are not confident that they will be able to afford August rent payments, with Black and Latinx tenants most concerned about their ability to pay. On July 10, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced that he was extending Boston’s eviction moratorium through the end of the year. While this is an important policy for many individuals and families who have been impacted by the economic downturn, it poses a difficult question that we must ask ourselves as a society: if legislation is required to ensure that residents aren’t forced out of their homes during a time of crisis, is there something inherently wrong with our housing system?

Also of note, Black and Latinx residents are more likely to live in denser areas, where a large number of people share tight living quarters. Overcrowded housing is one of the many social determinants of health that has left Black and Latinx communities vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s more difficult for residents to maintain physical distance when living in densely populated households and communities where there is little open space.

COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis have shone a light on and exacerbated disparities in our society, further demonstrating the need to create more housing that is accessible to all. Thanks to policies such as Mayor Walsh’s home rule petition, which proposes codifying the IDP and expanding Boston’s Linkage program, we’re taking important strides toward increasing Boston’s affordable housing supply and providing residents with crucial resources and opportunities. IBA is proud to provide high-quality, safe, and affordable housing to our residents, and we will continue our tireless work to ensure that every Boston resident is able to access their human right to housing.

We are proud to be working to develop housing opportunities for low-income households in Boston. For more information on how you can support IBA, please visit our page: