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Frontline Workers Struggling to Attain Housing

An analysis of data collected by the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Terwilliger Center for Housing has found that middle-income frontline workers are having a particularly tough time in finding attainable homes nationwide. The ULI Terwilliger Center’s 2021 Home Attainability Index identified gaps in home attainability nationwide, highlighting the occupations that have been impacted the most by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Index provides a snapshot of the housing market providing a range of choices attainable to the regional workforce, with a focus on issues related to racial, socioeconomic, and intraregional disparities and inequities.

Some highlights of the Index include:

  • The most severe cost burdens among middle-income households are predominantly found in the most populous regions;
  • There is a lack of attainable homes for critical members of the workforce, not limited to the nation’s most vibrant metropolitan economies;
  • There is a national struggle for lower-income households to find attainable rental units; and
  • Segregation–both by income and race–cutting across market types and geographies, with high housing costs threaten to worsen racial and socioeconomic disparities.

The study included an Occupational Analysis, which compares the amount needed to afford various housing types with the median amounts earned by various occupations in each region. In light of the pandemic, 12 impacted occupations were selected to demonstrate whether there is a surplus (a household earns more than necessary to afford the given housing type without being cost-burdened) or a gap. The occupations fell into three broad categories that could face heightened risks: Healthcare workers, frontline workers, and workers with an elevated risk of income disruption.

“Patterns of housing insecurity and racial and socioeconomic inequality that existed prior to COVID-19 have been exacerbated by the pandemic and the associated economic downturn,” said Michael A. Spotts, author of the report and a Visiting Research Fellow with the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing. “We are staring in the face of a situation in which many of the people who were critical in getting the population at large through this crisis face years of economic uncertainty and hardship as the country recovers. The Home Attainability Index will help to shine a light on where the main issues are, enabling us to find potential solutions to creating a more equitable society.”

Among regions that were seen as relatively affordable:

  • Toledo, Ohio
  • Cleveland
  • Birmingham, Alabama
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • St. Louis
  • Cincinnati
  • Scranton, Pennsylvania
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Conversely, nine metro areas struggled with affordability, but perform comparatively well on most equity measures, including:

  • San Diego
  • Los Angeles
  • Riverside, California
  • Denver
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Stockton, California
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Las Vegas
  • Seattle

Click here for more information about the ULI Terwilliger Center’s 2021 Home Attainability Index.

About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.
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