Mitigating Housing Instability During a Pandemic

Michelle D. Layser, Edward De Barbieri, Andrew Greenlee, Tracy Kaye, Blaine G. Saito

Research output: Working paper


Housing instability threatens to impair the United States’ policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic by undermining public health strategies such as social distancing. Yet, mitigation of housing instability has not been the focus of early emergency legislation, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which has focused on providing cash support to individuals and businesses. Although many of these laws have the potential to reduce housing instability, this Working Paper argues that they face barriers to effective implementation and take-up akin to those that hindered similar interventions during the Great Recession. These barriers—which include administrative hurdles, reliance on voluntary participation, resource constraints, and political pushback—may prevent these interventions from realizing their full potential. As a result, despite the unprecedented amount of aid that the CARES Act directs to individuals, the implementation of these aid programs may fail to effectively mitigate housing instability. For this reason, additional rental assistance and mortgage payment assistance may be necessary to prevent loss of housing that ultimately exacerbates the public health crisis. We also recommend a new civil right to counsel in eviction cases and targeted place-based interventions to promote affordable housing development where it is needed most.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages72
StatePublished - May 29 2020

Publication series

NameUniversity of Illinois College of Law Legal Studies Research Paper


  • Housing
  • Poverty
  • Urban Law
  • Tax Law
  • Tax
  • Economic Development
  • Urban Planning
  • Pandemic
  • COVID-19
  • Opportunity Zones
  • Tax Credits


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