What a year in lockdown taught us about how we want to live

This story is a part of Residence Certain, a sequence that examines Individuals’ fraught relationship to their properties—and the once-in-a-lifetime alternative to hit the reset button. Learn extra right here.

The previous year has highlighted simply how a lot our properties matter—and simply how problematic the American concept of “house” is. Inside days final spring, our worlds shrunk and our homes had been compelled to turn into places of work, colleges, eating places, and convention rooms. Practically every thing that you might as soon as think about doing some place else all of the sudden had to occur inside the 4 partitions of your house.

And at the same time as we felt trapped and claustrophobic, for many individuals, house was additionally a sanctuary, the one place they might take away their masks and take a deep breath. Individuals baked and gardened; practiced yoga and learned French.

However that wasn’t true for everybody. When COVID-19 first hit the U.S., it was referred to as the great equalizer. Individuals believed it didn’t discriminate. That quickly turned the good lie, as Black and brown communities, low-income staff, and multi-generational households had been contaminated at wildly disproportionate charges. For many individuals, house turned yet one more stressor.

On this editorial package deal, we take a look at how the pandemic threw a highlight on all of the methods the house is and isn’t working for American households. By way of tales about every thing from indoor air air pollution to inexpensive housing, we discover a once-in-a-lifetime alternative to hit the reset button.


This examination should occur at each stage: Shoppers might be extra discerning about what they convey into their properties—analyzing their meals, furnishings, and cleansing provides. However much more necessary, there have to be a reckoning at a nationwide stage. Insurance policies have to be modified; protected housing have to be seen as a human proper. That is much more true now, as COVID-19 has exacerbated inequality in America and laid naked simply how stark the divide is.

[Source Image: Palto/iStock]

Residence fairness elevated by $1.5 trillion, at the same time as tens of millions had been behind on rent and the threat of eviction loomed. America’s billionaires noticed their wealth enhance by a collective $1.1 trillion, whereas baby poverty hit 20% and 24 million Individuals reported experiencing hunger. Hundreds of thousands of workplace staff had been all of the sudden caught at house all day, which impressed a surge in home renovations and furniture buying. In the meantime, tens of millions of different staff had been laid off, ensuing in meals financial institution strains that stretched for blocks. These discrepancies have enormous implications for how we live and what constitutes a protected and wholesome house. That’s to say nothing of the racial and gender gaps which were additional uncovered through the previous year. Breonna Taylor was killed in her house, main many Black and brown folks to ask if they might truly be safe anywhere.

The Biden administration has proven a willingness to mitigate among the pandemic’s worst results. The $1.9 trillion stimulus invoice included $42 billion for housing assistance, and the proposed infrastructure invoice goes even farther, earmarking $213 billion to assist inexpensive housing and pushing for zoning reform.

The stimulus additionally included a child tax credit that’s anticipated to carry tens of millions out of poverty and billions to assist the kid care business. As Brigid Schulte, director of the Higher Life Lab at New America, writes, childcare can be a housing concern: It’s a essential a part of what permits working mother and father to present a secure house for his or her youngsters. These efforts will hopefully assist alleviate one other cruelty of the pandemic: its disproportionate influence on ladies. With daycares and colleges shuttered, mother and father struggled to steadiness their very own jobs with their youngsters’s schooling. Moms shouldered the bulk of this workload, and it took a toll: Greater than 2.3 million ladies have left the workforce since February 2020, plunging their labor participation to ranges not seen since 1988. And even though, in many relationships, each companions had been working from house, ladies additionally continued shouldering the majority of the house responsibilities. (In fact, even having the ability to work at home was a privilege; many low-wage staff had to present up in person all through the pandemic.)

The elevated time at house has additionally made folks hyperaware of the air inside their properties. Whereas the main focus has understandably been on virus particles, director of the Wholesome Buildings program Joseph Allen writes that there are different invisible toxins that may permeate our properties with out us figuring out. Bettering indoor air high quality is essential, as is making reparations for many years of racist housing policies that left Black and brown communities with fewer green spaces, larger temperatures, and polluted outside air. What’s inside our properties and the place they’re constructed can have a enormous influence on our well being—and the detrimental results are disproportionately felt by low-income and minority households.

And whereas house possession will not be a proper, protected and inexpensive housing ought to be. As Matthew Desmond, writer of Evicted: Poverty and Revenue in the American Metropolis, has said: “With out secure shelter, every thing else simply falls aside.” Not having secure housing makes it more durable to discover and preserve a job, more durable to have constant entry to healthcare, and more durable for teenagers to get a good schooling. It pulls folks even deeper into poverty, creating a cycle that’s practically not possible to get away of. On this package deal, Nate Berg appears to be like carefully on the lack of inexpensive housing in the US, arguing that even with elevated federal help, it’s time for cities to take the lead and begin shopping for privately owned buildings that may be become inexpensive housing. This isn’t the one resolution—fixing the housing disaster would require a variety of inventive approaches—but it surely’s probably the most radical, and a means for cities to be proactive.

The pandemic has compelled us to replicate on what we want in our properties and, by extension, how we actually want to live—as members of a family and members of society. It’s time to replace the American concept of the dream house to be inclusive of all 300 million Individuals.