Opening Panel: Rethinking Health and Homes After Coronavirus

  • Speakers:
    Eugene Jones, President & CEO, Atlanta Housing Authority
    Richard Gerwitz, Managing Director and Co-Head, Citi Community Capital
    Jacqueline Waggoner, VP and Market Leader, Southern California, Enterprise Community Partners
  • Moderator:
    Sasha Perigo, Freelance Writer, Housing and Homelessness

5 Key Takeaways

  • 1. Health and housing go hand in hand: Covid-19 has exposed the fissures of America’s housing system and has amplified the already existing inequities that plague public housing and homelessness. As Jacqueline Waggoner expressed, “COVID-19 has been able to daylight the critical challenges in the housing sector”.
  • 2. The United States lacks a national housing policy: Housing trails behind education, healthcare, and transportation and has fallen prey to partisan politics. The risk is an increase in homelessness and overall perpetuation of systemic racism and inequity. Congress needs to enact the adequate resources, Eugene Jones says, and listen to the practitioners!
  • 3. Public-private partnerships are key to crafting housing solutions: Local and federal resources must be supplemented by capital investment in order to provide the wrap around services. These solutions must be data-driven, employing the same data that exposes the inequalities within housing.
  • 4. The ability to build more housing depends on the health of the economy: New development projects are stalled due to closed municipal and recording offices. Richard Gerwitz says it‘s inevitable if this continues that we‘re going to see a softening in the tax credit market and a reluctance to lend as financial institutions become cautious. On the plus side, the pandemic is accelerating the digitization of certain processes that would have taken years to come online.
  • 5. We face a looming homelessness crisis. The CNBC figure, 28 million homeless, was brought up on multiple occasions–Eugene Jones said this number should probably be doubled. With unemployment benefits expiring at the end of July and eviction memorandiums being lifted, the panelists fear the state of the situation will worsen come fall. At which time it won‘t only be the low-income tax credit housing, but the small multi-family mom-and-pop owned buildings with other financial obligations that will face eviction.

Featured photo by Christopher Lin on Unsplash