Eviction, Health Inequity, and the Spread of COVID-19: Housing Policy as a Primary Pandemic Mitigation Strategy

Journal of Urban Health (2020)

12 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2020 Last revised: 7 Dec 2020

See all articles by Emily A. Benfer

Emily A. Benfer

Wake Forest University - School of Law

David Vlahov

Yale University - Yale School of Nursing

Marissa Long

Columbia University - Mailman School of Public Health

Evan Walker-Wells

Yale University, Law School

J.L. Pottenger

Yale University - Law School

Gregg Gonsalves

Yale School of Public Health - Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases

Danya Keene

Yale University - School of Medicine

Date Written: November 1, 2020

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic precipitated catastrophic job loss, high unemployment rates, and severe economic hardship in renter households. As a result, housing precarity and the risk of eviction increased and worsened during the pandemic, especially among people of color and low-income populations. This paper considers the implications of this eviction crisis for health and health inequity, and the need for eviction prevention policies during the pandemic. Eviction and housing displacement are particularly threatening to individual and public health during a pandemic. Eviction is likely to increase COVID-19 infection rates because it results in overcrowded living environments, doubling up, transiency, limited access to healthcare, and a decreased ability to comply with pandemic mitigation strategies (e.g. social distancing, self-quarantine, and hygiene practices). Indeed, recent studies suggest that eviction may increase the spread of COVID-19 and that the absence or lifting of eviction moratoria may be associated with an increased rate of COVID-19 infection and death. Eviction is also a driver of health inequity as historic trends and recent data demonstrate that people of color are more likely to face eviction and associated comorbidities. Black people have had less confidence in their ability to pay rent and are dying at 2.1 times the rate of non-Hispanic whites. Indigenous Americans and Hispanic/Latinx people face an infection rate almost 3 times the rate of non-Hispanic whites. Disproportionate rates of both COVID-19 and eviction in communities of color compound negative health effects and make eviction prevention a critical intervention to address racial health inequity. In light of the undisputed connection between eviction and health outcomes, eviction prevention, through moratoria and other supportive measures, is a key component of a pandemic control strategies to mitigate COVID-19 spread and death.

Keywords: COVID-19; Pandemic; SARS-CoV-2; housing; health; eviction; homelessness; health equity; health justice; health inequity; policy; housing instability

Suggested Citation

Benfer, Emily and Vlahov, David and Long, Marissa and Walker-Wells, Evan and Pottenger, J.L. and Gonsalves, Gregg and Keene, Danya, Eviction, Health Inequity, and the Spread of COVID-19: Housing Policy as a Primary Pandemic Mitigation Strategy (November 1, 2020). Journal of Urban Health (2020), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3736457 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3736457

Emily Benfer (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

David Vlahov

Yale University - Yale School of Nursing ( email )

400 West Campus Drive
Orange, CT 06477
United States

Marissa Long

Columbia University - Mailman School of Public Health ( email )

600 West 168th St., 6th Floor
New York, NY 10032
United States

Evan Walker-Wells

Yale University, Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

J.L. Pottenger

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Gregg Gonsalves

Yale School of Public Health - Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases

Danya Keene

Yale University - School of Medicine ( email )

333 Cedar Street
New Haven, CT 06520-8034
United States

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