Policy Minute: Housing Stability and COVID-19 Recovery

Research & Policy | June 24th 2020

7 train with Manhattan skyline and COVID virus overlay.

At every level of government policymakers are in the process of adapting to the new reality of operating during a global pandemic. This Policy Minute provides key data, information and Furman Center resources to help inform questions around housing stability as cities slowly begin to recover.

By the Numbers

Three months after COVID-19 shut down New York City and two weeks into the gradual lifting of stay-at-home orders, the economic fallout on the housing and labor markets are starting to come into view.

  • June 20 - The expiration date of a full moratorium on eviction filings. Read a policy brief outlining recommendations for opening housing court safely and effectively.
  • 735,000 - the number of New York City households estimated to have lost employment income as a result of COVID-19.
  • 526,000 - the estimated number of these households that filed claims for unemployment insurance 
  • $391 million - our estimate for the monthly statewide rental assistance need for low-income households (<80% AMI) in August after enhanced unemployment benefits expire
  • 31% - estimated share of New York City renters working in occupations vulnerable to income disruptions living in 1-4 unit buildings
  • 15.2% - share of overcrowded renter households in Zip Codes with the highest prevalence of COVID-19, more than double the rate in the lowest prevalence Zip Codes
  • 1 in 4 - number of households facing the prospect of an eviction filing in the two Zip Codes with the highest filing rates in 2019, before the pandemic hit

Furman Center Resources

In order to help policymakers assess, contextualize, and respond to housing issues throughout the crisis, the Furman Center analyzed data on a range of factors related to housing instability and eviction. The following highlights identify key findings from this series of analyses and from the State of New York City's Housing and Neighborhoods report, as well as resources for local governments to respond to housing issues after COVID-19.

March 24, 2020
This post shows widespread pre-existing housing instability in New York City when the pandemic hit, and examines rent burdens, household income, homelessness, and rents.

Bar Char showing share of rent-burdened New York City households by income level, declining as income increases.

March 30, 2020
This post analyzes households vulnerable to income disruption as a result of COVID-19 and their housing costs, showing that Black and especially Hispanic households were likely to experience a disproportionate impact.

Bar graph of wage earners vulnerable to COVID-19 income disruption by race and ethnicity.

April 10, 2020
An examination of the neighborhood characteristics of Zip Codes with high rates of COVID-19 showed that household overcrowding and lack of ability to work remotely were likely more important factors than neighborhood-level density.

Table 1: Neighborhood Indicators by COVID-19 Positive Case Quintiles


Cases per 1,000 People

2.32 - 5.53

5.53 - 6.95

6.95 - 8.66

8.66 - 10.7

10.7 - 19.5

Density Indicators          

Share Renters






Share Renters Overcrowded






Population Density
(people/sq mi)







April 30, 2020
Populations vulnerable to income disruptions disproportionately lived in smaller buildings (1-4 units), the owners of which are less able to absorb the loss of rental income.

Bar chart showing disproportionate share of vulnerable renter households living in buildings with fewer units.

June 4, 2020
This analysis estimated the dollar amount of rental assistance needed to support low-income households under different employment recovery scenarios once enhanced unemployment benefits expire.

June 16, 2020
The economic shock of COVID-19 takes place against a backdrop of declining eviction filings, as shown in the Focus Chapter of the State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods report. Yet even a 30 percent decline in filings between 2013 and 2019 was not enough to reduce the dramatic neighborhood disparities in where they occur, or the likely disparate racial impact on Black and Hispanic households.

Map of New York City showing higher eviction filing rates concentrated in outer boroughs.

The decline in eviction filings is likely to reverse once a temporary moratorium sparked by COVID-19 is lifted the week of June 20, and as enhanced unemployment benefits expire. A new working paper summarizes the results of interviews with key housing court stakeholders in a series of recommendations to help the courts reopen safely and effectively. The working paper's lead author wrote an op-ed in the New York Daily News outlining the key findings and points of this research.

Across the country, local governments are moving from crisis response to more medium and long-term COVID-19 recovery, though there are still areas of alarming case growth. This framework on Local Housing Solutions with best practices, policy briefs on emerging issues, and comprehensive resources for local practitioners can help localities to think strategically about response plans.

One of the key policy questions confronting local governments is how to structure rental assistance programs. Read the Local Housing Solutions policy brief on rental assistance for insight into how policy makers are navigating this issue.

Additional Research and Perspectives

New York State passed a law allocating $100 million in rent relief to address the COVID-19 housing crisis. Read more about eligibility and how to access assistance in the Journal News, or read the full text of the legislation.

In partnership with the Brookings Institution, Furman Center Faculty Directors Ingrid Gould Ellen and Kathy O’Regan, write about strategies for increasing affordable housing during the pandemic.

The Urban Institute calculated a national monthly rental assistance need of $16 billion to keep renters stably housed as the economy recovers.

The New York Housing Conference provides a regularly updated list of resources and news for affordable housing stakeholders in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition provides national housing policy and advocacy updates related to the COVID-19 response.

The Urban Institute published a data analysis of hourly and self-employed workers showing their extreme vulnerability to income and expense shocks.

The JP Morgan Chase Institute published an analysis of four key imperatives to weaken the blow of COVID-19 on households and small businesses.

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