Tag: COVID

The Problem With COVID and Cooling Centers

The Problem With COVID and Cooling Centers

The Problem With COVID and Cooling Centers

08/30/20

“What is the problem with COVID and cooling centers?”

Cooling centers are often used by emergency management to help the community cool off during heat waves. However, with the advent of COVID, bringing in people within close distance of each other can prove to be dangerous and allow the disease to be spread. This is The Problem With COVID and Cooling Centers.

Image credit http://www.reviewjournal.com

Why LA Is So Overcrowded, Why It Is Hurting With COVID, and How Building More Housing in Wealthier Areas Can Help Relieve This

Why LA Is So Overcrowded, Why It Is Hurting With COVID, and How Building More Housing in Wealthier Areas Can Help Relieve This

COVID-19 is talked about as if it’s the new black plague. Businesses have shut down, traffic lanes that once seemed perpetually clogged are silent, and people of all backgrounds are being forced to stay home. This is especially true in large urban centers such as New York City and Los Angeles, which have some of the highest rates in the Nation and California respectivelyMuch of the blame in popular media has been laid on the density of these cities. According to many, the closer the proximity that people live, work and play together in such areas increase the chance that they may contract the disease. Although intuitive, nothing could be further from the truth. Research has shown that while density may be a factor, it is probably not the most pertinent or even a great influence. Research showed that in New York City, the densest and hard-hit city in the U.S, that neighborhoods with some of the higher densities had the lowest COVID infection rates. In fact, a much more influential metric may be overcrowding.

Overcrowding in housing occurs when there is a greater number of people living in a household than rooms available. People are usually forced into this due to a combination of poverty and high living costs. This is especially acute in our city of Los Angeles, which has the highest rate of overcrowding in the nation. As seen in the figure below, 13.2% of Los Angeles city residents and 7.5% of Los Angeles Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) residents live in overcrowded conditions, far above San José and New York City. Furthermore, the city and MSA of Los Angeles lead in severe-overcrowding, which is defined as a housing situation where there is an average greater than 1.5 people per room.

People in overcrowded living situations are more likely to be critical workers and interact with other individuals in person, greatly increasing their exposure rate. Add in the fact that living in overcrowded conditions means that such containment from a potentially infected household member is not possible, then it is only logical that people in these situations are much more likely to contract COVID. A study from the NYU Furman Center showed that neighborhoods in New York City with a larger overcrowding rate tended to also have higher rates of COVID infections. Given Los Angeles’s extreme position in this issue, it’s no wonder why the county accounts for nearly half of all COVID cases in California despite just having a quarter of the population!

So how exactly did things get this way in our area? Much of this can be due to the large number of individuals in poverty in Los Angeles and the dearth of housing. According to The Public Policy Institute of California, in 2017 the County of Los Angeles had the highest percentage of individuals under the official poverty line at 23 percent of the entire population. Keep in mind that the official poverty line does not take into account regional cost of living, so the actual poverty rate is likely to be much higher. In addition, Los Angeles County has a large number of undocumented immigrants, 814,000, according to the latest estimates. Since undocumented immigrants are often forced to work for extremely low wages due to employers threatening to report them, they are more likely to pack-in together in overcrowded conditions.

Although these statistics are quite gruesome, policy action can be taken to ameliorate this. For the short-term, one action would be to allow for families in overcrowded housing to move into vacated units. In New York City, thousands of wealthier residents escaped when COVID hit, opening up the supply of housing. Some of these vacated units may be larger and more suitable for families in need. A temporary housing swap could be arranged for people, alleviating this public health crisis. Keep in mind that there is probably only a paltry amount of housing spaces that would be appropriate for large families to move into. Los Angeles was actually suffering from a record low housing vacancy rate before this. Even then, unhoused individuals should receive first priority.

That being said, this is a systematic issue that can only be solved with long-term solutions. The reason why families and individuals are forced into overcrowded housing is due to a lack of supply of appropriate housing. Constructing more spacious, high-unit housing in systematically privileged neighborhoods would allow for lower-income families to move out of these compressed situations and breathe freely. Research from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government has shown that one possible tool would be to synthesize empirical data on housing prices, education, incomes, and local climate to pinpoint where demand for more housing is likely to occur. This along with creating policies to allow for upzoning and development streamlining would fashion Los Angeles to be the equitable and resilient city that it should be.

If the city and county of Los Angeles are serious about making the area safe for lower-income communities of color, the need to deeply consider making housing conditions suitable. Los Angeles has a well-documented lack of units available, and its effect on overcrowding is pure torture for many. This only exacerbates the penetration of contagious diseases and further perpetuates inequity. A commitment to a pro-housing future is the start of the solution to this intertwined problem.

Why Opening Up Too Early From COVID Can Wreck Great Economic Damage, Especially on the Disenfranchised

Why Opening Up Too Early From COVID Can Wreck Great Economic Damage, Especially on the Disenfranchised

Why Opening Up Too Early From COVID Can Wreck Great Economic Damage, Especially on the Disenfranchised

06/24/20

“Why is opening up too early from COVID an equity issue?”

 

In the U.S, states are beginning to open up from COVID without having their number of infected drop to an appropriate level. This will cause even more cases to spike, prolonging the amount of time the country has to spend in this special situation. This will economically devastate businesses, especially ones by politically disenfranchised minority groups who are at the forefront of the virus and typically have fewer assets in surplus to keep on going. This is Why Opening Up Too Early From COVID Can Wreck Great Economic Damage, Especially on the Disenfranchised

 

And don’t forget, #BlackLivesMatter

What Are the COVID Rental and Housing Policies, and How Would They Help Los Angeles?

What Are the COVID Rental and Housing Policies, and How Would They Help Los Angeles?

Original article can be found here.

Very few individuals could have foreseen the COVID epidemic. Starting from the arrival of the first officially diagnosed case in Los Angeles County in January, the virus had spread in the population until a state-wide stay at home order was issued for the county on March 19th. Since then, over 60,000 individuals have been confirmed to have been infected, more than 2,500 people have lost their lives, and billions of dollars in economic losses have ensued. Nearly 25 percent of Californian workers are now unemployed, a number matching the height of the Great Depression. Communities of color and lower-income individuals have taken on a disproportionate share of this burden. Black residents of Los Angeles have died from the virus at a rate over 56 percent higher than their share of the population and Latinx residents are forced to work in person at essential jobs at a rate far higher than other ethnic groups. All of this combines to make paying rent much more difficult.

Taking heed of this, the Los Angeles County, Californian, Federal Governments have passed legislative action to assist Californian taxpayers with their bills. The following is a concise list of them.

 

1. The Federal CARES Act

After lengthy negotiations, the U.S Federal Government signed into law the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act.

This piece of legislation stipulates that

  • Single adults who have a gross income of $75,000 or less on their 2019 tax return a one-time check for $1,200.
  • Married couples who filed jointly will receive $2,400.
  • Families will get an additional $500 for each child under 17.
  • If an individual’s annual income is over $75,000/year, then their payment will shrink by $5.00 for every $100.00 earned over. (For example, an individual that makes $87,500/year would have $625.00 marked off their check and receive $575.00 instead).

Unfortunately, people who typically don’t file a tax return will not receive a package until they file, and individuals without a social security number and U.S citizens who are married to one are excluded from receiving a check. In addition, The CARES act also freezes student loan interests until the end of September and helps expand unemployment benefits by giving individuals an extra $600.00/week for the first month of enacting.

Given that the average rent in Los Angeles is $2,524, this stimulus check will not be remotely enough to cover the cost of living. This pales in comparison to other countries around the globe, where Canada is paying its citizens $1,433 USD per month, South Korea is covering 70% of worker’s salaries, Denmark 75%, the U.K 80%, and The Netherlands 90%. Given the vast number of newly unemployed workers and the high cost of living in Los Angeles, it would only be logical for more action to be taken.

 

2. Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) Rent Increase Freeze

According to the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department, a building is able to be protected under the rent-stabilization program if it is an apartment that is built on or before October of 1978. This usually means that the rent can only be raised by a maximum of 4% every year. But with the advent of the COVID epidemic, many Los Angeles city residents, particularly lower-income tenants that make a disproportionate share of rent-stabilized apartments, are losing substantial income. On March 30th, 2020, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a freeze on rent-hikes on all 624,000 units of rent-stabilized apartments. Later the LA City Council had extended this measure to an entire year following the emergency.

 

3. Evictions Moratorium

On March 16th, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsome issued executive order N-28-20, banning the enforcement of eviction orders on renters, with certain specifications.

The tenants are required to leave a written notice no more than 7 days before rent is due that they are unable to pay the rent. Eligible reasons for the inability to pay include lost wages due to the Coronavirus epidemic, becoming ill with the Coronavirus, or being forced to take care of someone ill with the coronavirus.

Sensing that complications could arise from having to provide a written notice, Los Angeles County issued an ordinance on March 19th to expand the ruling to all residential and commercial developments in unincorporated Los Angeles County. On April 14th, this ordinance was expanded to all jurisdictions in the county unless they already have adopted their own moratorium. In early May, these were extended to the end of June. What comes after is still up for legislators to decide. Other components of this ordinance include a ban on no-fault evictions (an action where landlords can terminate a tenant’s lease for any arbitrary reason even if they paid rent on time and acted without a problem) and Ellis Act evictions for two months until after the emergency ends (where a landlord may wish to tear down a rent-controlled building to place it off the rental market). Although temporary, these measures will afford extra protection to renters.

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With these pieces of legislation, Los Angeles renters will be able to have at least some form of assistance for weathering the pandemic. Although the federal stimulus is too light and the rent stabilization ordinance and evictions moratorium is only temporary, at least some action is being taken. Moving forward, more protective actions will need to be taken to ensure that all residents of Los Angeles will be able to not only survive the pandemic but thrive afterward.