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INFORMATION FOR

Housing and Health Equity Fall 2022 Newsletter

September 20, 2022

COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria Study

The Issue:

Legislators at the federal, state and local levels responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with a broad array of policies that were intended to prevent evictions and improve housing stability for renters. Eviction moratoria issued by the federal government, 43 states, and Washington, D.C. were an important part of this policy landscape. Recent evidence indicates that moratoria were effective in reducing filing rates and slowing the spread of COVID-19. However, to fully understand the impact of these protections it is important to examine how these policies were experienced and navigated by tenants themselves.

Our Approach:

In order to address this gap in knowledge, we conducted 60 interviews with tenants who were at risk of or who had experienced eviction during the first year of the pandemic. We conducted these interviews across three distinct policy landscapes: Connecticut (strong state moratoria), Florida (weak state moratoria), and Ohio (no state moratoria).

Findings:

The interviews helped clarify how eviction moratoria protected tenants, and how they fell short. We found that, for some, eviction moratoria created vital breathing room, offering relief from the immediate threat of eviction and time to secure new jobs or access to benefits. Still, tenants were very aware that these protections were temporary and prioritized paying rent at the expense of other needs. While the moratoria prevented some evictions, participants also described how gaps in the moratoria's protections and landlord power dynamics resulted in both informal and formal evictions.

One participant, Michael, summarized the mix of relief and uncertainty that the moratoria provided. He stated,

"Oh, God, yeah. Big time relief. When I learned that, when I first learned that there was a moratorium on evictions and that they couldn’t evict, it was just like, that was like a humongous weight was like lifted from me. I still had the weight of, you know, I have to take care of this, something needs to happen, but at least there was some sort of a safety net that, if I fell, I wouldn’t hit the ground, you know?”



Informal Housing Providers Study

The Issue:

Social networks are a very important and often unrecognized part of the housing safety net. Today, many individuals are unable to secure housing due to high costs, lack of available units, and other barriers such background checks of credit history and criminal legal records. Friends, family, and acquaintances often step in to address unmet housing needs by supplying temporary housing in their homes.

Our Approach:

We sought to understand the experiences of these informal housing providers. In 2021, we conducted interviews with 45 Connecticut residents who were providing housing to someone who did not have somewhere else to stay.[1]

Findings:

In a recent publication, in the journal Socius, we describe the experiences of informal housing providers. First, we describe the important role that providers play an important role in addressing unmet housing needs in their communities. Second, we describe how experiences of provision can strain resources, time, labor, and autonomy, and also the ways provider experiences could be mutually beneficial. Third, we discuss the ways that provision could create housing risks, threatening a providers own housing security and their health and well-being. In this way, the current affordable housing crisis may extend beyond the individual to affect community health and well-being. Finally, we discuss how the burdens and costs of informal housing provision fall unequally on communities of color, in particular on Black Americans, who are systematically excluded from housing as a result of multiple intersecting forms of structural racism.

Nearly 90 percent (n=40) of the sample had stayed with others to avoid being homeless and felt an obligation to “pay it forward.” Here Nora echoed what many others shared about having been in their guests’ shoes at some point in their own lives

“I just think, you know, if you can help out, why not, you know? Why not? A little compromise here and there, because at one point in time, I was in that same situation. I was homeless. I slept on benches, so I know what it’s like, and just to see that... you know, it helps you to see things through the eyes of someone else.”



Project ReSIDe/Rental Subsidies to Improve Diabetes


The Issue:

Market rate rental housing is currently too expensive and out of reach for even full-time earners. The average worker would need to work 97 hours per week at minimum wage to affordably rent a two-bedroom apartment. In this landscape of unaffordability, federal rental assistance, in the form of vouchers and project-based subsidies, are a critical source of affordable housing. However, these subsidies are in short supply; currently, fewer than 1 in 4 income-eligible individuals receive them and waiting lists average 2 years nationally (and up to 10 years in some locations). How does this unmet need for rental subsidies affect health? How could we improve health by expanding subsidy access?

Our Approach:

Project ReSIDe seeks to address these questions, with a focus on diabetes. [1]

This project has three components:

Analyses of HUD Data

We use national data to compare health outcomes between two groups, those receiving rental assistance and those on a waitlist. In one recent paper, published in the journal JAMA, we find that living in project-based, federally subsidized housing was associated with a reduced likelihood of uncontrolled diabetes. In another analysis, we find that receiving rental assistance is associated with less food insecurity and eating more fruits and vegetables.

Local Data Collection

We are recruiting Connecticut residents who have diabetes and are on a waiting list for rental assistance. If you are interested in being a part of this study or know someone who is interested, please contact us here.

Interviews with Participants

We are conducting qualitative interviews with 30 participants to learn about their experiences with the application process, waitlists, securing housing with rental assistance, housing quality, and diabetes management. The interviews have been very informative, particularly about the challenges of leasing up with a voucher. We have also learned about the various ways housing conditions impact diabetes such as the ways that poor quality housing can interfere with healthy food preparation and the ways that high housing costs can create stress. Additionally, participants discussed the challenges of managing diabetes effectively at work.

Destiny, a mother with two young children, describes the process of finding housing, after receiving a voucher following four years on the waiting list.

“It was hard because three months, that's not a lot of time. And I looked every day for something. Every day. Even when it got down to like a week, I was calling my worker back to let him know, you know, I didn't find nothing yet and I'm still looking.”


Community Collaborations

This past year lab members engaged with organizations in New Haven that provide housing support services. Staff at Columbus House, Liberty Community Services, and New Reach worked with students to investigate important issues as part of an independent study or summer internship. Below are some examples of such collaborations.

  • Leah Robinson, Yale MPH student, worked in partnership with Columbus House to examine experiences of individuals who moved to hotels during the pandemic. You can read more about her work in this op-ed and in her recent paper published in Housing Policy Debate. Leah graduated in May and has a job with the NYC Department of Social Services in the Office of Research and Policy Innovation.


  • Anna Kapolka, Yale MPH student, worked with Columbus House on an evaluation of New Haven’s winter weather shelter programs. She also completed a thesis that examined how landlord-tenant power dynamics shaped the efficacy of eviction moratoria. Anna graduated in May and is working as a data analyst with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services in Pittsburgh.


  • Gaby Olea Vargas, Yale MPH student, worked with New Reach to examine landlord and management companies’ perspectives and experiences with tenants who leased up with a rapid rehousing voucher.


  • Yale MPH student Sunny Sun and University of Minnesota MPH student Faiza Hassan worked with New Reach on a qualitative evaluation of their Integrated Care Program (ICP) that supports women who are experiencing/at risk of homelessness that have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders.


  • Allison Steele, Yale MPH student, worked with Liberty Community Services on a qualitative study that explored various perspectives around using tiny homes as an innovative permanent supportive housing model for people who are experiencing chronic homelessness in New Haven.


  • Shannon Carter, Yale MPH student, conducted an independent study on unhoused individuals' need for storage. Shannon reviewed storage programs across the country and conducted interviews with stakeholders throughout New Haven (report forthcoming). Shannon graduated in May and is working with the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center as a Project Coordinator.


New Projects

  • Yale doctoral student Shannon Whittaker is currently conducting a project about gentrification and health in New Haven. For more information call (203) 836-8518 or email hedgestudy@gmail.com.


  • We are currently working on an evaluation of Connecticut's new right to counsel legislation. We are conducting interviews with tenants, leaders, advocates, and other stakeholders about their experiences with this program. If you would like to participate in an interview, please call (203) 800-2050 or email RightToCounsel.CT@gmail.com.

A very special thank you to the participants that make this work possible.

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us!!


Submitted by Penelope Schlesinger on September 20, 2022