Examining the Neighborhood-Level Housing Impact of COVID-19 in Chicago: A Preliminary Analysis

Blog post by Geoff Smith, Sarah Duda
April 2020

Institute for Housing Studies   (Chicago)

To support Chicago-area housing and community development practitioners as they think through the need for housing and place-based interventions, the Institute for Housing Studies (IHS) created a new analysis to highlight the potential economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on households with workers in occupations most vulnerable to mass layoffs. The analysis adapts methodology and code developed by the NYU Furman Center to analyze conditions in Chicago and is distinct from work that focuses on the risks of essential workers. It classifies a core set of occupations that were likely to be most impacted by the initial wave of COVID-19-related mass layoffs and identifies households with at least one member working in a vulnerable occupation.

IHS’s adapted analysis shows that in Chicago, renter households, particularly those that were lower-income and already cost-burdened, and workers of color, are more likely to be employed in occupations most vulnerable to significant disruption and layoffs due to COVID-19 and that there are distinct geographic patterns to these impacts. Here’s what we know from our initial analysis:

  • Of the roughly 300,000 Chicago households with a worker in an at-risk occupation, more than 183,000 - or over 60 percent - are renter households.
  • 41 percent of renter households and 33 percent of owner households have at least one likely impacted worker.
  • Lower-income renter households are especially hard hit as 53.6 percent of renter households earning less than $30,000 have an at-risk worker.
  • Nearly half of renter households with an at-risk worker were already housing insecure, meaning they were cost-burdened - paying over 30 percent of their income in rent.
  • At the individual worker level, nearly 40 percent of Latinx and 37 percent of African American workers are in more vulnerable occupations. By comparison, less than 20 percent of white workers are in more vulnerable occupations


While the nature of interventions to mitigate risk is evolving and there is a need for other data to highlight workers that may be unable to access unemployment benefits and other risks to the economy, these initial data on the potential impacts of COVID-19 can be used as a starting point to help frame conversations around the scale of interventions needed to stabilize the local rental market, protect renters, and identify communities of greatest need.