The Strategy Group used scenario planning as the basis for proposing strategic actions designed to address the COVID-19–associated eviction and housing instability crisis during the dynamically evolving circumstances of the pandemic. Scenario planning is designed to challenge deeply held assumptions and allow the charting of a path forward through uncertain times, such as pandemics, that require agile strategies and full consideration of a wide range of possibilities. In contrast to approaches based on a single base case determined by a quantitative forecasting model or in some other fashion, considering a set of scenarios allows planners to pinpoint features common to a range of likely possibilities and therefore propose robust strategies. By incorporating uncertainty as a central feature of the process, planners are encouraged to focus more concretely on the realities of unknowns, external forces, and uncontrollable factors that help define the planning environment.
The Strategy Group began by identifying the most relevant drivers of uncertainty implied by the project’s guiding question: “What actions can be taken by the government, private-sector entities, communities, and individuals to reduce rental housing instability and rental evictions exacerbated by COVID-related strains on household finances and to mitigate the health, human dignity, social, and economic costs or impacts of those evictions that do occur?”
The Strategy Group identified the framing areas of uncertainty as (1) the path of and public response to COVID-19 and its effects, and (2) the path of and response to other external disruptors. In addition to these two framing uncertainties, the Strategy Group explored the uncertainties associated with public health, scientific response (i.e., vaccines and vaccinations), public trust in science, social determinants of health and well-being, affordable housing, employment, economics, geopolitical forces, education, social equity, and socioeconomic policies.
Recognizing these “critical uncertainties” allowed the Strategy Group to envision four overarching scenarios bound by the most important forces at play and systemically encompassing this full set of uncertainties. By using the spectra of possibilities along with the two framing uncertainties as axes, the Strategy Group defined the field of likely future states (see Figure B-1).
Taking a deeper dive into each scenario, the Strategy Group generated plausible narratives about the future (see “Scenario Outputs” below). Visualizing a set of concrete possible futures encouraged the Strategy Group to keep its thinking broad and comprehensive yet realistic and well framed. With the planning environment fully
defined, the Strategy Group then developed strategies for responding to the most critical rental housing instability challenges facing individuals, communities, private-sector entities, and governments.
The Strategy Group gauged the applicability of these strategic interventions across all four quadrants to identify robust responses to the full range of potential futures. These strategies were then evaluated for feasibility, evidence basis, and group consensus before being translated into measurable goals and discrete, targeted actions for recommendation in this report. The Strategy Group restricted its selection of actions to those that would demonstrably mitigate the pandemic-related strains on health, human dignity, society, and the economy associated with evictions and housing instability—while also shedding light on opportunities to build resilience in preparation for future crises. The end product was a set of interventions that were systemic and adaptive across a broad range of potential future circumstances.
The recommended time horizon for the COVID-19 scenarios was 36 months, or through 2023. With this scope in mind, the Strategy Group created the following scenario set.
Scenario 1: This is a world in which a well-coordinated federal response to COVID-19 is an immediate priority that sets the stage for the United States to reinvigorate and rebuild its federal institutions to be increasingly resilient and adaptive to future disruptors. In response to the dynamics of this scenario, the Strategy Group identified strategies
for expanding affordable housing, strengthening the effectiveness and resilience of the systems in local communities that support individuals experiencing rental housing instability, and creating mechanisms for improving the ability of individuals to navigate successfully the available social and legal services.
Scenario 2: This is a world in which the United States mounts a durable, equitable, and comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is vulnerable to other external disruptors as it struggles to restart the economy and create more durable socioeconomic systems. In response to the dynamics of this scenario, the Strategy Group identified strategies for creating a blueprint for successfully forging connections among local, state, and federal resources and local intermediaries to improve outcomes for low-income individuals; moving beyond reacting to crises to build a greater understanding of the underlying factors involved in such events; strengthening the resilience and effectiveness of systems so they can withstand future disruptions; and mitigating financial and other impacts experienced by those vulnerable to rental eviction.
Scenario 3: This is a world in which a continued fragmented response to COVID-19 and its impacts by institutions and the public and an onslaught of additional disruptors leads to a breakdown in the social fabric, the economy, and public trust in institutions to act in the best interest of the public. In response to the dynamics of this scenario, the Strategy Group identified strategies for extending the federal, state, and local authority eviction moratoriums, including providing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with rapid expert consultation; researching and clearly identifying disparities, gaps, and loopholes that have exacerbated the impacts of COVID-19 on rental housing security; researching affordable housing market inventory and underutilized properties; and developing strong data systems to enable tracking of issues and progress toward long-term improvements in rental housing security.
Scenario 4: This is a world in which the response to COVID-19 remains fragmented and inadequate, while a shifting focus on climate change with early successes to boost new energy and resilient infrastructure leads to recovery of the economy and increased systemic resilience to other external disruptors. In response to the dynamics of this scenario, the Strategy Group identified strategies for continuing pandemic-related moratoriums; building a permanent, flexible structure around federal funding for support agencies; and coordinating data collection to support the tracking of evictions and housing instability so as to predict and prevent the adverse health, human dignity, economic, and social impacts of eviction on at-risk populations and communities.
This page intentionally left blank.