A City Plagued by Two Pandemics: Chicago's Battle with COVID-19 and Housing - Essay Example

Published: 2024-01-28
A City Plagued by Two Pandemics: Chicago's Battle with COVID-19 and Housing - Essay Example
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Healthcare Covid 19
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1632 words
14 min read


Even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chicago was already battling an even severe pandemic on homelessness. At the start of 2020, 5,390 people needed housing assistance, and by March of 2020, the whole world had shifted, and many Chicagoans saw their worlds crumble. Unemployment in Illinois skyrocketed, and no doubt affected many Chicagoans. The number of Chicagoans who work highly impacted by COVID-19 occupations and is rent and housing insecure stands at 106,000. The need for affordable housing in Chicago has become direr in recent years. In 2019 alone, there are 5,000 people on the waitlist for Housing Choice Vouchers. This number will undoubtedly go up in the coming year because of COVID-19 and our countries' unemployment crisis. Our recommendation is to pay rent to those facing eviction for at least six months in areas with the highest eviction rate and highest cases of COVID 19 in predominantly Black and Brown Communities. We know this will help keep those individuals and families from falling into poverty or falling deeper into poverty.

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COVID -19's Effect on Chicago's already Crumbling Affordable Housing

Coupled with homelessness and job loss, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit many people hardly globally. COVID -19 has created hardships for everyone around the world, the country, and in Chicago. The world has currently witnessed how the pandemic has uncovered massive inequalities in employment, healthcare, housing, and so much more. Since the start of the pandemic, many companies have been unable to sustain the wage bill and have been forced to lay off their employees. As of April 2020, Chicago's unemployment rate was 18.7%, which has come down to 9.5% in October 2020. This decline does not mean that there are less than one million Chicagoans facing joblessness and potentially unable to pay for their basic needs, like housing. Losing housing during a global pandemic could have deadly ramifications for some. Without housing, a person may need to turn to family or friends or a crowded shelter; both options could lead to further transmission and spread of COVID-19.

Before COVID-19 affected Chicagoans, the city had already seen low-income families being hurt from lack of access to affordable housing. Experts in Chicago housing attribute this to higher rents, stagnant wages, segregation and discrimination, and eviction. Citizens face such challenges despite access to quality housing being a right and a basic want. "Equal access to quality housing is an essential prerequisite for residents to acquire employment, education, and the various resources necessary for one to live a prosperous life."

What Is Currently Being Done?

For many years, housing in Chicago has been in crisis for many Chicagoans, ranging from the middle class to low-income folks. The crisis can be contributed to gentrification, rising costs of rent and home buying, stagnant hourly wages, and lack of affordable housing. As mentioned earlier, the effects of the crisis have an overwhelming effect on Chicago's Black and brown communities. Besides, the housing crisis has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been policies that have been implemented before and after COVID-19 to help those at greater risk of eviction. Rather than alleviating the housing crisis, the policies only aided in lessening the impact of deep poverty.

Chicago's Low-Income Housing

Housing in Chicago has always had its challenges, many unfairly facing Chicago's low-income communities and deepening it is already existing poverty. One of the main issues surrounding housing stems from the cities lack of affordable housing and subsequent accessibility to the use of Housing Choice Vouchers and Project-based Vouchers.

History of Evictions in Chicago

In Chicago, between 2010 and 2017, one in 25 Chicago renters and their families faced evictions each year. About 60% of cases ended in the forcible removal of tenants by the sheriff. (https://eviction.lcbh.org/reports/chicagos-ongoing-crisis) These evictions disproportionately affect Black communities across Chicago. Housing Action Illinois found that "In 2017, 23 of the 25 community areas in Chicago with the highest eviction filing rates were majority Black Community Areas. Majority Black areas had eviction filing rates two to four times higher than majority Latinx or White areas." (https://housingactionil.org/what-we-do/policy-advocacy/eviction/). Eviction implies that it led to the loss of homes for 72 Illinoisans daily. Therefore, eviction is a poverty tool and keeps many people and families in poverty year after year. Even an eviction filing can have negative effects on housing opportunities. Both eviction filings and eviction orders end up on a publicly accessible history that anyone can access. This may keep people from allowing individuals housing leading to periods of homelessness.

Cares Act

In response to COVID-19, the federal government signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which, in Illinois, provides federally funded unemployment benefits expansions that include; Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Such benefits provided an additional $600 per week for individuals receiving regular unemployment benefits. A one-time $1,200 check was sent to individuals whose income was less than $99,000 (or $198,000 for joint filers) and $500 per child under 17 years old – or up to $3,400 for a family of four (Gov't website). Although these payments were helpful for some individuals and families, they did not reach all citizens, including those who do not have a social security number or those who did not submit taxes in 2018 or 2019. Although any monetary payments during this time are helpful, the one-time $1200 payment would only cover maybe one month's costs. This does not take into account the costs needed to support a whole family.

Additionally, the $600 per week for individuals receiving unemployment benefits ended in July of 2020. Hence, even though these payments have been of great help, they have not been able to help low-income Chicagoans with monetary security during this difficult time. About 44% of Black tenants and 41% of Latino/a/x tenants reported little to no confidence in paying rent (Shriver).

Eviction Moratorium

In response to the inevitable renters and housing crisis resulting from COVID-19, Governor J.B. Pritzker put forward executive order 2020-72, which put a moratorium on Illinois's evictions. Recently, an update to this order says that a landlord may not initiate an eviction proceeding against tenants unless certain health and safety exceptions apply. The order allows certain evictions to proceed, including an individual tenant's income over the limit of $99,000 in 2020 and no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return. The other exception to the landlord eviction order is that the tenant needs to prove that they cannot pay their rent due to COVID-19 related hardship.

The issues seen with this policy are that renters are still expected to pay back any missed rent, landlords still need to pay for their buildings' costs, and some landlords are continuing to evict their tenants. With tenants still expected to pay back rent, they are only delaying possible evictions, not getting rid of the root cause. Without financial relief for both renters and homeowners, once the state's eviction moratorium has ended, evictions will undoubtedly begin again with a risk of displacing many Chicagoans, particularly those living in low-income housing.


There are certainly several ways the eviction epidemic can be battled. The conviction is that with a budget of 100 million dollars, it is possible to do a great deal of help by giving cash assistance and social services access to the needy. One of the greatest recommendations is to provide direct cash assistance to those facing evictions due to not paying rent as a direct cause of COVID 19. We propose setting up COVID-19 Crisis Centers in two areas most impacted by COVID 19, and both neighborhoods have high eviction order rates. These two areas are South Lawndale and Southshore. The two Crisis Centers will allow people to apply for cash assistance to help prevent evictions. They would also give access to eviction lawyers, social workers, and career development programs.

By setting up these crisis centers, it will be possible to help stop the most at-risk Chicagoans from facing evictions in 2021. It is common knowledge that landlords will expect tenants to pay back the rent they may have missed during 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. Preventing further harm such as eviction notices in the future from damaging their housing records and allowing them to stay in safe housing, avoiding more dangerous exposure to COVID-19.

To prevent the mistreatment and abuse from the landlords, it is recommended that the $100 million cash assistance be paired with access to lawyers, social workers, and career development programs to help these Chicagoans as they work through hurdles that COVID-19 has created. With great hope, these services will allow for help with any eviction court cases, grieving the loss of loved ones, and aid in gaining new employment in cases of job loss. Ideally, these centers would also be a place where the community could be matched to any other resources they need. Social workers on sight would help community members gain access to food pantries, get free COVID-19 tests, or other needs as the community determines.

The housing crisis, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, is enough to make people sink into deep poverty. Hence, the cash is expected to prevent communities from falling deeper into poverty because of COVID-19. It will help the affected individuals identify whatever they can do to supplement their skills and grasp the opportunities that arise. The hope is to help the resident of Chicago city overcome the housing crisis, racial inequities, or other causes of the city's poverty crisis. While this program may not achieve such an objective, it surely will empower them to unravel their potential and become better individuals. Besides, it will help solve issues of chronic homelessness. The greatest help that the initiative can offer to those being challenged is by developing a long-lasting solution. Such solutions would be to enable them to identify their talents and use them to better their lives. Hence, the funds will empower the affected to become self-independent and sustaining.

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A City Plagued by Two Pandemics: Chicago's Battle with COVID-19 and Housing - Essay Example. (2024, Jan 28). Retrieved from https://speedypaper.com/essays/a-city-plagued-by-two-pandemics-chicagos-battle-with-covid-19-and-housing

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