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Frontline workers appear to be having a more challenging time finding homes during the pandemic than most, according to an Urban Land Institute (ULI) report.

ULI’s Terwilliger Center for Housing recently released its 2021 Home Attainability Index, which analyzed more than 110 U.S. metro areas across 30 metrics of housing affordability and equity. According to the report, the pandemic has worsened an ongoing crisis of middle-income households being able to find attainable homes.

“No matter where you are in the U.S., substantial numbers of members of the workforce have few housing options that fit their budgets,” said Christopher Ptomey, executive director of ULI’s Terwilliger Center for Housing. “Attainability challenges are particularly acute for frontline workers, health workers and others particularly vulnerable to income disruption as a result of the pandemic and in more populous regions.”

Out of 12 impacted occupations compared across several regions, the report found that certain healthcare and frontline workers could face “heightened risks” of not finding attainable homes.

The occupations compared in the study were: geriatric nurses, cardiac technicians, nursing aides, home health aides, long-haul and delivery truck drivers, janitors, retail salespeople, child care workers, security guards and restaurant workers.

“We are staring in the face of a situation in which many of the people who were critical in getting the population at large through this crisis face years of economic uncertainty and hardship as the country recovers,” said Michael A. Spotts, author of the report and a visiting research fellow with the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing.

ULI also released a national summary report as part of the index-related resources, which found that:

– The most severe cost burdens among middle-income households are predominantly found in the most populous regions.

– There is a nationwide lack of attainable homes for critical members of the workforce that is not limited to the United States’ most vibrant metropolitan economies.

– There is a national struggle for lower-income households to find attainable rental units.

– Segregation—both by income and race—cuts across market types and geographies, and high housing costs threaten to worsen racial and socioeconomic disparities.

“This year’s report, again, suggests that there is virtually nowhere in the U.S. that is adequately meeting the housing needs of its residents today or prepared to meet the needs of tomorrow,” said Ptomey in a recent webinar. “There is much work to be done, and the Terwilliger Center looks forward to continuing the work with ULI members in local jurisdictions across the country to unlock and tailor housing production to meet enormous and growing housing needs.”

Key Regional Comparisons

The Home Attainability Index Summary Report examines the relationship between attainability and equity. According to the report, Ogden-Clearfield, Utah, performed best in the list of top-performing regions regarding home attainability. San Antonio, Texas, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, were the top performers of the 50 most populated areas researched.

Regions that were characterized as “relatively affordable” but lagged in equity-related performance were:

1. Toledo, Ohio
2. Cleveland, Ohio
3. Birmingham, Ala.
4. Charlotte, N.C.
5. St. Louis, Mo.
6. Cincinnati, Ohio
7. Scranton, Pa.
8. Louisville, Ky.
9. Winston-Salem, N.C.

Conversely, nine metro areas—San Diego, Stockton, Los Angeles and Riverside, California; Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; Las Vegas, Nevada, and Seattle, Washington—struggled with affordability but performed well on most equity measures.

Jordan Grice is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email him your real estate news ideas at