The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the crisis of middle-income households being able to find attainable housing, with front-line workers faring particularly badly, according to a new study from the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing.

For the occupational analysis section of its 2021 Home Attainability Index, the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing selected 12 occupations impacted by the COVID-19 crisis—including health care workers, front-line workers, and workers at risk of income disruption—and gauged their ability to afford the nation’s median housing prices across a range of housing types.

Of the occupations selected, only three—geriatric nurses, cardiac technicians, and long-haul delivery truck drivers—would be able to rent a two-bedroom apartment in more than half of the regions in the dataset. Only geriatric nurses could afford more than half of the regions’ median priced homes with a 10% or 3% down payment.

Nursing aides, home health aides, stock movers, janitors, retail salespersons, child care workers, security guards, and restaurant wait staff are unable to afford median priced homes in any of ULI’s tracked regions, whether with a 10% down payment or a 3% down payment. The hardest hit are restaurant wait staff, who make a median annual wage of $26,532 across all index regions, but can only afford a one-bedroom apartment in 12.15% of them.

The Attainability Index is designed to demonstrate the extent to which a housing market provides housing choices that are attainable to the regional workforce, with the intent of informing and supporting developers and municipalities in addressing affordability challenges. The index covers the 100 most populous metropolitan statistical areas, plus an additional 12 served by ULI District Councils, and incorporates 30 housing and equity-related metrics across five categories. These include overall affordability; homeownership attainability; rental attainability; neighborhood opportunity and access; and housing production.

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