COVID-19 and the Crisis within a Crisis
New Orleans now has a growing majority renter population. It is estimated that more than a third of the workforce in the city belongs to its tourism and hospitality industries, which were decimated by the pandemic. Those who could work feared for their health. ‘Tens of thousands’ of layoffs expected next week in tourism-dependent New Orleans. The local disparity of medical access and the fact that many in Louisiana suffer from diabetes, hypertension, and other compromising medical conditions meant many in the city were at risk.
A substantial amount of evidence shows that housing has a significant and direct effect on health, especially for low-income populations. Locally, we have a 25 year life expectancy gap between the most economically depressed and affluent neighborhoods.
April took the country by surprise. A third of U.S. citizens could not make their rent payments by the first of the month, and just a week before, 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment with the numbers continuing to rise past record levels. With half of renters in New Orleans spending almost a third of their paychecks on rent, a significant portion of the aid could be read as a subsidy for landowners. Even with the added financial assistance, many are still waiting to receive aid or to even be approved.
The problem becomes even more serious when you look at the many people who need assistance but are ineligible or are only partially eligible (sex workers, documented and undocumented immigrants), or find themselves in more complicated sitautions, such as recently divorced couples or survivors of domestic abuse. Additionally, while evictions are not allowed for units that received forbearance, currently there’s not a way for renters to check if the property owner has been approved for forbearance, leaving many property owners to demand payments when they themselves are off the hook for months.