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A house divided: As millions of Americans face evictions, others buy dream homes during COVID-19

Brandi Gee has been living in a Georgia hotel with her son for nearly three months after losing her job and her rental home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Indiana, Jana Miller and her husband jumped at the opportunity to buy their dream home in the town of St. John after the pandemic hit.

The coronavirus recession has opened a wide chasm between the haves and have-nots in America’s housing market. Some people can afford to flee cities and upgrade their life at a time when the median price for a home is at its highest ever. But other Americans, like Gee, aren’t confident that they will ever own a home and face lasting financial damage from the pandemic following a historic wave of job losses, looming evictions, surging home prices and stagnant wages. Gee, who lives in Warner Robins, Georgia, was laid off from her job as a prep chef at a country club in March, a major blow to her finances. The restaurant and bar industry she worked in was among the hardest hit by layoffs caused by coronavirus shutdowns.

She was paying rent month-to-month before the pandemic hit, then briefly lived with a friend because she no longer could afford rent. When she struggled to find a new job and brokers didn’t return her calls to help find a house or apartment to rent, she was forced to move to an extended-stay hotel, she says. Gee has had a handful of job interviews in the restaurant industry in recent weeks, but nothing has panned out. She fears she’ll get evicted from the hotel if she doesn’t find a job soon.

“We’re barely surviving,” Gee, 46, says. “I’m scared we’ll end up sleeping on the streets. I don’t know if I’ll ever recover.” In Indiana, Miller, 40, thought she’d remodel her starter home to get another five to 10 years of use out of it because her family couldn’t find a home in their price range.

But in June, the price on a two-story home she’d been eyeing before the pandemic dropped.

The sellers said they would accept her offer if she put her home up for sale immediately. Just four days later, she sold her home for $11,000 above asking price after more than a dozen showings.

“It was a whirlwind,” says Miller, a physical therapist. “We were really blessed to get our dream home during such a crazy time in this world.”

Their new home comes with a finished basement and four bedrooms for her growing family of five.