FROM THE CONVERSATION, 23 MARCH 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is a double crisis affecting public health and the economy. And both aspects are playing out in our housing system – in our homes.
More and more of us are being directed to stay home, to work from home, or to socially isolate at home. Our homes are the “first line of defence against the COVID-19 outbreak”, as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Housing puts it. But, depending on how our housing system responds, it could make the double crisis worse.
More and more workers are losing shifts, or losing jobs altogether, as well as the incomes they use to pay for their homes – whether it’s the rent or the mortgage. On Friday, the prime minister announced that states would work on model rules to provide relief to tenants in “hardship conditions”. On Sunday, the federal government moved to replace some of the income households have lost, temporarily doubling some social security payments and making cash grants to businesses.
The risk of people becoming homeless during the pandemic is still high. Some more specific actions are needed to shore up our first line of defence. Governments must implement a moratorium on evictions as long as the crisis lasts. Similar changes have already been made overseas.