Argonne developed the Housing Stability Index (HSI) to better understand the changes in housing stability for owners and renters during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Argonne developed the HSI to assess impacts from COVID-19, this methodology can be applied to future shocks that result in widespread economic disruption dependent on continued data availability.
What is the Housing Stability Index (HSI)?
The availability of affordable housing has been a challenge for communities across the United States long before COVID-19. In locations across the country, many low and moderate-income households commit a significant portion of their monthly earnings to housing costs. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this issue given the widespread decrease in employment as non-essential businesses closed and consumer patters changed. Argonne developed the HSI to better understand the changes in housing stability for owners and renters during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Argonne developed the HSI to assess impacts from COVID-19, this methodology can be applied to future shocks that result in widespread economic disruption dependent on continued data availability.
What Does the HSI Measure?
The HSI quantifies the decreased stability of housing (renter or owner occupied) across the United States due to missed or deferred housing payments (rent or mortgage payments) or serious delinquency. This is done through calculating the ratio of the near real-time percentage of occupied housing units not at risk of eviction or foreclosure to the baseline percentage of occupied housing units not at risk by county. For purposes of this index “at risk” indicates a higher percentage of residents unable to make rent or mortgage payments. An HSI value of 1 indicates no additional housing instability due to COVID-19 while declining values indicate increasing housing instability (above housing instability before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic). For example, a jurisdiction with a stability score of 0.96 would indicate that approximately 4% fewer households in that jurisdiction are stable (i.e., not at risk of eviction or foreclosure) than in the baseline period (January, 2020). Argonne also created two sub-indices, Owner-Occupied Housing Units at Risk and Renter Occupied Housing Units at Risk to differentiate risk between homeowners and renters. To better visualize the results, Argonne binned the data into 5 relative bins (darker colored bins means less stable housing and lighter colors indicate greater stability) and created maps available below.
Why is the HSI Important?
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased concerns about housing insecurity, specifically ability for renters and owners to retain their current housing. Evictions and foreclosures cause significant personal and economic disruptions. For example, the loss of stable housing is strongly linked to food insecurity and impacts to mental health. An increase in evictions from rental housing, or foreclosures of owner-occupied housing, will increase demand for community-based housing and homelessness support programs and resources. Foreclosures and evictions also affect landlords and banks that rely on predictable and consistent mortgage and rent payments to service debt and obligations.
How to Use the HSI
The goal of the HSI is to provide a basis to identify areas of the country at greater risk of housing instability. The HSI can help local, state, and federal policymakers assess in near-real time the varied impacts to housing stability, to better understand potential individual and family needs and to evaluate the need for eviction relief policies. Maps of different time periods during the pandemic allow users to visualize how housing stability has affected different areas of the country over time.
Argonne National Laboratory’s work is supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, via interagency agreement through U.S. Department of Energy contract DE-AC02-06CH11357. FEMA does not endorse any nongovernment entities, organizations, or services.