Intersecting Health, Housing, and Urban Inclusion in the Time of COVID-19 Evidence from Detroit and Durban

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Dana Marie Parke
Pauline Adebayo


“Housing is a key site through which COVID-19 is experienced” (Rogers and Power, 2020: 177). This paper explores how COVID-19 has illuminated the intersection between health and housing, in the context of equity and inclusive cities. This paper reviews the theoretical pathways that link housing as an important determinant of health, and applies them to the COVID-19 situation. For example, stay-at-home orders are impossible for homeless individuals; social distancing is difficult in overcrowded housing; lockdowns in poor quality homes can result in health challenges; and pandemic-induced unemployment increases risk of eviction and poor health outcomes. Importantly, the pandemic has sharpened the visibility of existing inequitable structures that shape the social and built environment and place vulnerable populations at heightened risk. Anecdotal evidence from Detroit, Michigan, USA and Durban, South Africa allows for preliminary exploration of these intersections. The paper concludes with recommendations for cities to improve equity and inclusivity.  

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Author Biographies

Dana Marie Parke, Henry Ford Health System

Investigator, The Global Health Initiative, Henry Ford Health System

Pauline Adebayo, University of KwaZulu-Natal School of Built Environment and Development Studies

Senior Lecturer, School of Built Environment and Development Studies