As the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic started to emerge this past spring, cities and states rushed to find relief during the public health crisis and economic downturn. In San Antonio, federal, state, and local relief funds could be a lifeline to stave off eviction for many residents. Last month, the Texas Supreme Court allowed eviction proceedings to resume, while the city failed to pass an ordinance that would fill the gap to provide further eviction protections,
This decision denied San Antonio renters a 30-day grace period to pay back rent before landlords could evict them. With evictions allowed to proceed, this is a critical moment for San Antonio to locate and determine which residents are most in need in order to target funds. Texas Housers, in the hopes of identifying who is most at risk of displacement and financial crisis, mapped vulnerable census tracts with respect to a number of socio-economic and housing variables.
We included 8 variables in our percentile index to compare the existing vulnerable census tracts within San Antonio and those who may be most susceptible to economic and social collapse from the fallout of COVID-19.
The variables that we selected are:
- Households with one or more persons with a disability
- Households receiving SNAP/Food Stamps
- Number of individuals that fall under the “older population” category
- Households with no internet access
- Households with limited English proficiency
- Counts of undocumented immigrants
- Households below the poverty guideline
- And individuals with no health insurance
All data was gathered from the US Census Bureau ACS 2018 5-Year Estimates. In addition, data was collected from all over Bexar County with regards to evictions, unemployment claims, and reported COVID-19 cases. Eviction data was collected from January 1 of this year until May 27 from Bexar County Public Records. For our purposes, only evictions from April 15 through May 15 are included. Unemployment claims were gathered from April 15 to May 15 from the Texas Workforce Commission. COVID-19 case data was collected from the San Antonio COVID-19 dashboard website from the onset of the crisis on March 13 through June 2.
The goal of mapping COVID-19 cases alongside evictions is to establish a link between ongoing vulnerabilities as well as emerging issues through spatial analysis. Texas Housers overlaid multiple layers of data so the viewer could get a better understanding of the geographic location of vulnerable census tracts, cases of COVID-19 infections, and evictions all at once. Texas Housers also overlaid COVID-19 infections and evictions for Hispanic/Latino and African American populations living below the poverty level.
Texas Housers also calculated a percentile index with ranks of each census tract against each other from most vulnerable to least vulnerable.
In Figure 1, an aggregate score was calculated averaging the rank of census tracts and where they fell on the percentile index for variables 1-5 from the list above. In Figure 2, the same method was used to calculate the average rank for variables 6-8. In Figure 3, the same method is used for all variables, 1-8.
Concerning scores for those census tracts in the “highly vulnerable” range marked in dark green, the average distribution was higher than 84% out of all census tracts for one or more persons with a disability, 85% for households with food stamps/SNAP assistance, 74% for older population, 86% for households without internet access, and 81% for households with limited English proficiency.
For least vulnerable areas shaded in light purple, census tracts averaged counts higher than only 14% of all census tracts for households with one or more persons with a disability, 17% for households receiving food stamps/SNAP, 19% of individuals in the older population category, 16% for households without internet access, and 17 % for households with limited English proficiency. Darker-shaded green census tracts in Figure 1 show highly vulnerable tracts on the east, west, and south sides of San Antonio. The Eastside is especially concerning due to its concentration of African American residents, because redlining policies relegated them to this neighborhood decades ago. Ethnic communities reside on the west, south, and northeast side of San Antonio, areas where we can clearly see an alignment with many of our variables mapped out in each of the percentile index figures.
The majority of census tracts in Figure 3 with the highest vulnerability score (in dark green) had a distribution higher than 85% of all census tracts with undocumented immigrants, 83% of all census tracts with amount of individuals below the poverty level, and 87% of all census tracts with individuals with no health insurance.
For census tracts ranked in the least vulnerable category, in light purple, these areas had a distribution score only higher than 14% of other census tracts for undocumented immigrants, 12% for individuals living below poverty level, and 13% for individuals with no health insurance. Additionally, once we overlay COVID-19 cases, the areas within the diameter of the larger circles, containing 40 to 80 cases and more, are located in these very same census tracts where many low-income Hispanic and African-American populations.
The larger circles, representing higher case counts of COVID-19, are correlating with census tracts with several other socio-economic factors which should be accounted for.
In Figure 4, the majority of census tracts with indicators of greater social vulnerability had an average distribution higher than 83% of all census tracts with households with one or more persons with a disability, 85% for households with food stamps/SNAP assistance, 72% of households with seniors, 86% with no internet access, 82% with households with limited English proficiency, 81% of undocumented immigrants, 85% below the poverty level, and 84% with no health insurance.
While Texas Housers utilized all available information to build these maps, it must be noted that this data is not exhaustive. In our search for information about COVID-19 case demographics, including race, income, or age on a case by case basis was largely unattainable. The COVID Tracking Project reports that only 20-25% of COVID-19 cases are recording any type of demographic data within Texas. This makes the task of tracking which populations are currently affected by COVID-19 that much more difficult.
Additionally, Bexar County voting to spread out their aid money at the same amount throughout the county does not account for the severe need in the clearly outlined census tracts and areas with greatest vulnerability outlined in the figures above. In creating greater transparency, Texas Housers recommends the following:
- Both the city and county level should invest more resources to disaggregate data on COVID-19 cases to provide socioeconomic information, including income level and race and ethnicity.
- San Antonio and Bexar County should dedicate emergency relief resources toward census tracts outlined in our ranking, predominantly located on the south, west, and east side of the city in historically ethnic communities.
- Our mapping shows that unemployment claims and evictions are concentrated in the immediate city center with proximity to dense populations of low-income communities of color. The City of San Antonio should make a concerted effort to allocate funds to these historically vulnerable groups.
The City of San Antonio has received $270 million from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund while Bexar County has received almost $80 million. Both of these entities must focus the spending of these funds on neighborhoods and people who need it most. These maps are a place to start in determining the need of Bexar County and San Antonio residents at this moment of crisis.