The COVID-19 pandemic is a historical accelerant. It has compressed 10 years of online-shopping growth into a few months, bankrupted chains that were in steady decline, hastened Democratic gains in the Sun Beltsped up an urban exodus from America’s most expensive cities, and persuaded my grandmother to finally use Instacart. All of this was bound to happen eventually. The coronavirus just mashed its big fat thumb on the fast-forward button.

And now a housing problem years in the making is dangerously close to spiraling out of control.

Before the pandemic, half of U.S renters spent 30 percent of their income on housing. The poorest quintile of Americans spent more than half their income on rent, on average. Even in a healthy economy, housing costs were eating workers’ wages.

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