COVID-19 affects housing issues

As the pandemic forces millions of Californians to adjust to a new reality, the words “housing crisis” provoke previously unthinkable questions: How to shelter in place without a home? How to self-isolate in an overcrowded apartment?

Less than two weeks ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom and California lawmakers were in the throes of tackling the twin issues voters considered the state’s most urgent concerns: the more than 150,000 Californians without a home and the state’s sky-high housing costs. 

Legislators were introducing controversial bills to make it easier for developers to build more housing, hoping to ease the crippling shortage economists say have made rents and home prices among the most expensive in the country. Newsom and local governments were about to square off over how to spend $1 billion in proposed help for the unhoused.

That feels like eons ago. As the COVID-19 pandemic forces millions of Californians to adjust to a new reality, the state’s “housing crisis” already means something different, provoking previously unthinkable questions: 

How do you shelter in place without a home? How do you self-isolate in an overcrowded apartment? How far would a $1,000 stimulus check from the federal government go toward my rent or mortgage payment? 

Here are five rapidly evolving housing issues to watch in the next few weeks, months and, yes, years.

Issue 1: The state’s housing crisis makes it harder to respond to COVID-19

Issue 2: Housing the unhoused amid a pandemic takes an extraordinary — and extraordinarily complicated — effort

Issue 3: Renters and mortgage-holders need lots of help

Issue 4: Rents and home prices may dip, but that’s not necessarily good news

Issue 5: If momentum for new home building dries up, trouble lies ahead