What COVID Taught Us About Reliable Energy & Healthy Homes

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Contributed date

December 28, 2021 - 2:41pm

Critical Commentary

This artifact discusses the overlap between the COVID-19 crisis and the housing and utility affordability crisis. Avila begins by citing statistics for housing and utility debt accumulated during the pandemic, and articualtes how this debt and the housing and utility crisis as a whole mirrors systemic injustices for vulnerable households, such as black, indigenous, and people of color households:

"the housing sector, as of January 2021, estimates between $8.4 and $52.6 billion owed in back rent, and an estimated $35-40 billion is owed in utility bills. Black, Indigenous, People of Color, with already disproportionate energy burdens (up to 45% more burden than white households) and housing burdens (with more than 50% of Black households having Moderate to Severe cost burdens) bear the brunt of these costs, making this not only an affordability issue but an equity issue as well." (Avila 2021). 

She then discusses the shortcomings of existing assistance programs for both rental and energy assistance, with assistance programs varying in terms of access and eligiblity by jurisdiction. Even with programs in place, there were 898,479 evictions enforced nationally in 2016 alone according to Evictionlab. Prior to COVID-19, Avila states that LIHEAP only reached 15% of eligible households. 

Although additional funding for utility and housing assistance was put into effect because of the added burdens created by COVID-19, the distribution of rental assistance has been extremely slow, 

with only $5.1 billion dollars distributed to renters as of July 2021, the rest still sitting in state accounts. Only 17% of those who have applied for this assistance have actually received funding, making this program comparably effective as affordability interventions before COVID-19, despite a significant budget increase. (Avila 2021)

The consequences of the ineffecacious assistance policies disproportionately affect BIPOC households, with 22% of Black renters, 20% of Latinx renters, and 19% of Asian renters being behind on rent in March 2021.



Cite as

Lizzie Avila and Laura Goldberg, "What COVID Taught Us About Reliable Energy & Healthy Homes", contributed by Alison Kenner and Morgan Sarao, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 28 December 2021, accessed 17 August 2022. https://energyrights.info/content/what-covid-taught-us-about-reliable-energy-healthy-homes-2