Community-led housing: a concrete response to COVID-19

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What influence do our housing situation and neighborhood relationships have on our individual and collective ability to cope with the health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic? UrbaMonde and We Effect conducted a study on this question.

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  • urbaMonde-France
Pierre Arnold

2020 was marked by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), with significant socio-economic consequences for most of the world’s population. Across the globe, citizens were advised by their national, regional or local governments and international organisations to lockdown, stay and work at home, reduce physical contact and social interactions, limit their movements and economic activity to “the essentials”.

In August 2020, We Effect mandated urbaMonde to conduct a global study to assess the interrelations between the type of housing and the extent to which residents are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (in terms of health, social and economic impacts).

The study is based on the hypothesis that Community-Led Housing initiatives (Housing Cooperatives, Community Land Trusts, Co-Housing, Intentional Communities and neighbourhoods with a strong sense of solidarity and participation) allowed their residents to collectively organise self-help, defend their rights and prevent forced evictions, and to develop other resilience mechanisms in response to income loss and reduction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Download the full study in English here

For a low resolution PDF, please download this version.

The study is also available in French, in Spanish and in Portuguese brasileiro HD - brasileiro ligero.

Survey participants - Geographic distribution

• Worldwide participation

• Global participation: housing cooperatives habitants

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

• Cases detected in the respondents’ locality

80% of the respondents mention that COVID-19 cases were detected in their locality.

• Impact on the local economy

60% of the respondents consider that the pandemic’s impact on the local economy is HIGH and 10% LOW or inexistent.
In Europe, North America & Caribbean this rate is 46% of the respondents while it is around 70% in Africa & Middle East and Latin America.

Eviction threats in times of COVID-19

• Threats of eviction before and during the pandemic

7,2% of the respondents have been threatened since the beginning of the pandemic, less than before the pandemic (8,2%). But in answers from Africa & Middle East show that 21,3% were threatened since the beginning of the pandemic, more than before (13,9%).

Around 40% of respondents living in irregular land ownership have been threatened with eviction. Collective Land Ownership respondents show that they haven’t been threatened of evictions during the last months. Some of the respondents living in public rental, private rental housing or borrowed housing have been threatened also.

Most of the people who were evicted during the pandemic lived irregular situations, in private rental but also in borrowed housing and in fully paid individual property.
Respondents living in CLT and Housing cooperatives haven’t been evicted.

• Other housing difficulties during the pandemic

Most of the respondents in Africa & Middle East, Asia and Latin America mention difficulties to afford housing costs since the beginning of the pandemic and foresee difficulties also for the next three months.

In Africa & Middle East, 25% of the respondents form also mention the necessity of hosting relatives or friends and 18% the necessity of moving out to reduce housing costs.

Respondents from Europe, North America & Caribbean are less affected in their housing situation.

Community organization to face the pandemic

• Participation in solidarity activities with neighbours

CLO and irregular land ownership respondents show a very high participation in both, neighbourhood organization (independently form COVID-19) and solidarity initiatives in this context. Public rental housing inhabitants also show an important level of organization at neighbourhood scale compared with private rental and individual property.

• Areas of solidarity activities with neighbours

Participation in neighbourhood activities for food security and COVID-19 prevention has been quite important in all regions, specifically among Africa & Middle East respondents who also mention children education and protection form domestic violence initiatives.

Healthcare between neighbours has been very important in respondents from Europe, North America & Caribbean (68%).

Together with respondents form irregular and other situations, CLO’s respondents are over the average in terms of participation in Food, Health, COVID-19 prevention, as well as education activities.

  • 17% of all the respondents have engaged in Food Security Initiatives. But in Housing Cooperatives they were 33% and in CLTs 47%.
  • 15% of all respondents have engaged in Care Initiatives. But in Housing Cooperatives they were 42% and in CLTs 20%.
  • 19% of all respondents have engaged in Prevention Initiatives. But in Housing Cooperatives they were 45% and in CLTs 60%.
  • 5% of all respondents have engaged in Income-generating Initiatives. But in Housing Cooperatives they were 7% and in CLTs 20%.
  • 8% of all respondents have engaged in Educational Initiatives. But in Housing Cooperatives they were 18% and in CLTs 27%.
  • 3% of all respondents have engaged in Violence Protection Initiatives. But in Housing Cooperatives they were 5%.
  • 2% of all respondents have engaged in Support Initiatives to Women. But in Housing Cooperatives they were 4%.
  • 7% of all respondents have engaged in Training Initiatives. But in Housing Cooperatives they were 17% and in CLTs 7%.
  • 16.8% of all respondents have engaged in initiatives at the Neighborhood Level. But in Cooperative Housing they were 39% and in CLTs 47%.


Despite the fact that the sample of respondents to the survey is quite small and non representative it permits to observer the following tendencies about the COVID-19 response. Cooperative Housing and CLT, as well as individual property cohousing initiatives show important benefits for their inhabitants in these times compared with irregular housing situations, borrowed or rental housing, and standard individual property:

Security of land tenure: these models offer higher protection from evictions, foreclosure or necessity of moving to another place even if people lose part of their incomes (security funds, collective credit payback, monthly payback proportional to incomes, negotiation capacity with funders…).

Income generation: previously organized groups for saving and housing are more likely to get together to create a emerging income-generating activity to adapt to job losses and economic crises (soap and masks production, buying food to neighbours.

Solidarity activities: neighbours know each other (struggled together for housing, participate in assemblies, committees and activities…), they know vulnerable situations and can easily trust and help each other (ill, elderly, children, jobless, etc.).

Together against isolation: collective activities help reducing the charge of tasks, especially on women, but also help emotionally and psychologically to prevent isolation, loneliness, stress and depression.

Download the full study in English here