From the early outbreaks to the economic destruction that has come after, the coronavirus pandemic has mapped itself onto America’s longstanding affordable housing problem and the gaping inequality that underlies it. To offset rising rents in a nation where one in four tenant households spend more than half of their pretax income on shelter, a multitude of low-wage service workers have piled into ever more crowded homes
San Francisco, there is a rough economic split. Cities and neighborhoods to the east, places like East Palo Alto, North Fair Oaks and the Belle Haven section of Menlo Park, are more overcrowded and have a larger share of low-income and Black and Latino residents, many of whom have been disproportionately affected by the virus. Towns and neighborhoods to the west, places like Hillsborough and Palo Alto, are whiter and rich.
This geography is as fundamental to how the place operates as the invention of the microchip. Every day, throngs of clerks, landscapers and elder-care workers wake up on the eastern parts and travel to homes on the western parts or to the corporate campuses of tech companies to do subcontracting work. And every night, they return to overcrowded homes.
12 People in a 3-Bedroom House, Then the Virus Entered the Equation
Overcrowding, not density, has defined many coronavirus hot spots. Service workers’ quarters skirting Silicon Valley are no exception.