“Improving America’s Housing 2021” with the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies

March 25, 2021
by Caroline Blakely, President and CEO at Rebuilding Together National

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, neighbors have spent more time at home than ever before. Extra time at home prompted many of us to make home improvements and repairs. After many professional remodeling projects came to a halt, DIY renovations surged across the country. According to Improving America’s Housing 2021, a new report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, spending on home improvements and repairs grew more than three percent in 2020 to nearly $420 billion. It became clear that neighbors wanted to modify their homes as they began to spend more time living, working and studying in them.

For millions of our neighbors across the country, home modifications are not an option because they do not have the ability to even make critical home repairs. Many Americans lost their jobs and income, are not physically able to make repairs or were impacted by natural disasters, which left them unable to maintain their homes. “The ability of [low-income homeowners] to maintain their typically older, more affordable homes is critical not just for their safety and comfort, but for the preservation of the country’s aging housing stock,” the report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies says.

Although there are many Americans who have not yet financially recovered from the pandemic, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies expects sustained growth in home remodeling in the future. “In the short term, many homeowners who deferred projects—both large and small—in 2020 are expected to complete those renovations once the pandemic is over,” said Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies. “Additionally, there has been an upturn in homeownership as younger households look to purchase homes, the number of multigenerational households has been growing, and remote work has given people more locational flexibility and the desire to modify their homes.”

As the economy recovers, we must not forget about our neighbors who are living in unsafe housing. We have a duty to close the gap between those of us who can modify our homes as needed and our neighbors who live in deteriorating homes, which are becoming increasingly hazardous to their health.

I am honored to participate in conversation around the Improving America’s Housing 2021 report today. I will be discussing the state of the nation’s housing and the newest report from Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. I will be joined by Fred Stokes from Lowe’s Home Improvement, Amy Scott from Marketplace and Kermit Baker and Abbe Will from Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. You can register for the event here and follow along on social media with #HarvardHousingReport.