As the US economy continues to recover from the effects of the pandemic, households that weathered the crisis without financial distress are snapping up the limited supply of homes for sale, pushing up prices and further excluding less affluent buyers from homeownership. At the same time, millions who lost income are behind on housing payments and on the brink of eviction or foreclosure.
With funding from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, 15 students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) will study and work on a host of pressing issues related to housing and community development this summer.
While the US economy shrank by 3.5 percent in 2020, spending on home improvements and repairs grew more than 3 percent, to nearly $420 billion, as households modified living spaces for work, school, and leisure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Annual gains in spending for improvements and repairs to owner-occupied homes are expected to be modestly higher in 2021 compared to last year, according to the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA).
For most of 2020, the US has been beset by the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest sparked by racial injustice, and the devastating impacts of climate change. According to the 2020 State of the Nation’s Housing report, the nation’s housing challenges have never been so evident—particularly the lack of affordable rental housing, unequal access to good-quality homes, and the vulnerability of much of the housing stock to natural disasters. And while historically low interest rates and continued strength in many economic sectors have given a boost to the for-sale housing market, for many, the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic has worsened affordability challenges.
A rapidly aging population has helped spur recognition of the importance of creating livable and age-friendly neighborhoods, where people of all ages can maintain independence and a high quality of life. However, a new report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP Public Policy Institute shows that most older adults in the US do not reside in livable communities—places that score high on the AARP Livability Index—and there are significant differences between who has access to the country’s most livable communities.
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