Population Health

November 22, 2021

Initiative’s Applied Research Fellowship project assesses housing vulnerabilities in King County

Image of students working on a white boardThe 2021 University of Washington Population Health Applied Research Fellows recently concluded their research on the effects of household growth, demographic and spatial distribution, environmental risks and COVID-19 on housing vulnerabilities in King Country. Their goal was to analyze the disparities created by these factors in an effort to better inform future access to affordable housing in King County and its communities.

The team analyzed past and present factors to develop methods for projecting the number of households, average household sizes and typical housing tenure types for future decades in King County. Their findings are intended to help identify shortcomings in housing-related data that currently pose challenges the community’s ability to anticipate future housing needs, resulting in the existing inequities within the housing sector.

They first examined King County’s history of housing costs to identify spikes in living costs and subsequent evictions over the past several decades. They also considered the modern effects of COVID-19 on housing, discovering that economic shutdowns led to high rates of unemployment, which particularly affected low-income renters who struggle to meet the overall costs of living in the region.

Additionally, they highlighted the potential effects of climate and environmental hazards on housing availability and community resiliency, citing examples such as the county’s high risk of enduring a major earthquake and the impact of increasing in heat waves in urban areas due to the pressing climate crisis. As we experience more frequent and extreme heat waves, they found there is a lack of date on air conditioning in residential buildings. They found, for example, that homeowner or renter insurance policies rarely include earthquake insurance without charging an additional fee, creating a financial burden for low-income households and furthering the housing disparities seen in the area.

Policy makers and community members will be able to draw from the team’s projection methods to inform future infrastructure planning in King County in a way that works toward diminishing inequities and overcoming current challenges to affordable housing. Accompanying their report is a data dashboard tool that should help policymakers see better where there are population health vulnerabilities across the county.

“It was a pleasure to work with so many talented students from the UW, both undergraduate and graduate students,” said Jessica Godwin, this summer’s Faculty Advisor. “Being a part of a team from different parts of campus with different areas of expertise made for a multi-faceted project and lots of learning along the way.”

The Applied Research Fellowship program was launched in 2019 to equip students with data analysis, critical thinking and team science skills to enable them to effectively tackle complex population health challenges and become future leaders in the field. The program is run by the Population Health Initiative in partnership with the University of Washington’s Center for Studies in Demography & Ecology, and this year’s project was developed together with the King County Demographer and Public Health – Seattle & King County’s Assessment, Policy Development and Evaluation Unit. Graduate and undergraduate students from various departments made up this year’s cohort of fellows.

Name Degree Program School
Ali Ahmed Undergraduate, Political Science Major College of Arts & Sciences
Adrien Allorant PhD, Global Health – Metrics Department of Global Health
Will von Geldern PhD, Public Policy and Management Evans School of Public Policy & Governance
Juliette Randazza Master of Public Health and Master of Public Administration School of Public Health and Evans School of Public Policy & Governance
Grace Rossi Undergraduate, Public Health-Global Health Major School of Public Health

By working on a real-world, client-driven project as part of a multidisciplinary team, the fellows learned how to integrate their disciplinary expertise into a team-oriented, problem-solving approach that developed multi-pronged solutions to a pressing population health challenge.

The application period for the summer 2022 Applied Research Fellowship program will open in winter 2022.

Learn more about this fellowship program by visiting its web page.