ATLANTA — When Louana Joseph’s son had a seizure because of an upper respiratory infection in July, she abandoned the apartment her family had called home for nearly three years.
She suspected the gray and brown splotches spreading through the apartment were mold and had caused her son’s illness. Mold can trigger and exacerbate lung diseases such as asthma and has been linked to upper respiratory tract conditions.
But leaving the two-bedroom Atlanta apartment meant giving up a home that rented for less than $1,000 a month, a price that is increasingly hard to find even in the nation’s poorest neighborhoods.
“I am looking everywhere,” said Joseph, who is 33. “Right now, I can’t afford it.”
Since then, Joseph, her 3-year-old son, and her infant daughter have teetered on the edge of homelessness. They have shuffled between sleeping in an extended-stay motel and staying with relatives, unsure when they might find a permanent place to live.
A nationwide affordable housing crisis has wreaked havoc on the lives of low-income families, like Joseph’s, who are close to the brink. Their struggle to stay a step ahead of homelessness is often invisible.
Rents soared during the pandemic, exacerbating an already-severe shortage of available housing in most U.S. cities. The result will be growing numbers of people stuck in substandard housing, often with environmental hazards that put them at higher risk for asthma, lead poisoning, and other medical conditions, according to academic rese …