Addressing Housing Insecurity in the Wake of COVID-19

April 29, 2020

A team led by two Berkeley faculty has received a grant to investigate and address eviction spikes and displacement risks related to COVID-19. They’re among the first grantees of the newly created C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute for projects focused on COVID-19 response and recovery.

chapple - blumenstockKaren Chapple, Professor and Chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning, and  Joshua Blumenstock,Assistant Professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information and Director of the Data-Intensive Development Lab, will lead the work with Matthew Desmond, Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology at Princeton University.

Working with The Eviction Lab at Princeton, UC Berkeley's Urban Displacement Project and Data-Intensive Development Lab will predict and identify neighborhoods with residents living in precarious housing circumstances due to the COVID-19 economic and health crisis, tracking their evictions in real-time. This will provide major new sources of data to inform research and public policy, enabling cities and states to quickly put in place measures to stabilize their communities. 

“With millions unable to make rent this summer, it’s critical to leverage the power of cloud computing and machine learning to identify neighborhoods at risk throughout the country and help government take early and effective action to keep people in place,” Professor Chapple said. Professor Blumenstock added, “We hope this data-driven approach can help local policymakers more effectively track and respond to pandemic-driven spikes in eviction.”

The project is one of three selected for the first round of awards totaling $1 million from C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute (C3.ai DTI), a consortium of research universities and companies dedicated to accelerating the socioeconomic benefits of artificial intelligence. The other projects focus on understanding and predicting the spread of COVID-19 and assessing the effectiveness of different interventions, and developing computational techniques to augment the interpretation of medical images to inform diagnosis and treatment of the virus. The Institute will announce additional awardees for COVID-19 mitigation research by June.

 “These projects exemplify the potential breakthroughs that will come from the science of digital transformation at the nexus of machine learning, IoT, and cloud computing,” said S. Shankar Sastry, C3.ai DTI Co-Director and the Thomas M. Siebel Professor in Computer Science and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, Bioengineering, and Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley. “Breakthrough research is almost always a result of intense collaboration to meet intensely demanding goals. With COVID-19, we have our work cut out for us.”