In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, both the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)order, imposed moratoriums on eviction from rental housing under most circumstances, at least until December 31, 2020. CDC’s guidance specifically states that preventing evictions “can be an effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of [Covid-19],” and that “housing stability helps protect public health because homelessness increases the likelihood of individuals moving into congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, which then puts individuals at higher risk [of] Covid-19.”
“If you’re going through hell, keep going,” Winston Churchill is reputed to have advised during the early days of World War II. This advice is equally relevant for the current Covid-19 pandemic as it affects owners, staff and residents of affordable housing buildings and complexes, especially those dedicated to senior living, and truly, the entire population.
This is the outlook presented by the latest edition of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies report, entitled, Housing America’s Older Adults 2019. And it represents one of the greatest challenges facing the entire affordable housing enterprise. The first question, then, in any discussion of senior housing and services is: Are we meeting the demand?
Any business or industry as affected by government regulation and legislative decision-making as affordable housing has a vested interest in engaging elected officials and encouraging its constituent voters to exercise their rights.
This is the motivating statement behind former Vice President Joe Biden’s housing policy plan, and he has made clear that it is a central and essential part of his presidential candidate platform.
In 2008, a graduate student in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison named Matthew Desmond took up residence in a rundown trailer park on the South Side of Milwaukee, and later moved into a Black neighborhood on the city’s North Side, where he roomed with an African American security guard he’d met at the trailer park. His goal was to document from every angle and perspective the pervasive effects of eviction and chronic housing insecurity.
“Once you’re home, you’re safe.”
That is the essence of Health Secure Housing as defined by our colleague and TCA columnist David Smith, founder and CEO of the Affordable Housing Institute (AHI) of Boston, MA.
“I’ve been developing in the Bay Area for quite some time. It got to the point where the costs were so high that building became very difficult. I’ve worked with modular construction for about 15 years, but there is a limited number of modular suppliers in the West. So, I knew I had to do something myself.”
Entire building sections shipped in on trucks. Walls keeping cold air in during the summer and warm air in during the winter with virtually no leakage and minimal energy costs. These are all components of a modern story of low-income affordable housing in Washington, DC.
Three years ago, I published a book that I wrote with Dr. Michael Osterholm, the renowned epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, entitled, Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs.
As with every sector of society and level of business, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the affordable housing industry, with owners, managers and front-line workers having to figure out new procedures and ways to adapt.
“One thing about our company is that we don’t shy away from difficult projects,” says Thomas Brown, vice president of Trinity Financial, Inc. of New York. The proof of that assertion is 425 Grand Concourse, going up on the corner of East 144th Street in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx. The 26-story high-rise, slated for mid-2022 occupancy, will comprise 277 units of permanently affordable housing for several distinct income tiers, on-site education and medical facilities, retail and cultural space and an adjacent pubic park with a new comfort station. So complex was the deal structure that it incorporates eight separate condominium structures within the 310,500-square foot building. It will also be one of the tallest passive houses ever constructed, projected to consume 30 percent of the energy of a typical building of similar size.