Canada released the most Canadian look at COVID-19 deaths — by including real estate. Statistics Canada (Stat Can) studied age-adjusted COVID-19 mortality rates by housing type. The national stats agency found elevated mortality rates amongst those that live in high rise buildings. This was especially true for low income households, with one key exception.
High Rise Buildings Linked To Higher COVID-19 Mortality Rates
As you would expect, density plays a role in higher mortality rates during a pandemic. The mortality rates for low income residents of apartments 5 stories or higher was 65 per 100,000 people. It’s almost 3x the rate of low income single-family detached residents, which came in at 23 per 100,000 people.
Canadian COVID-19 Mortality Rate By Dwelling Type
The Relationship of Density and COVID-19 Mortality
Generally speaking, the more dense the housing type the higher the mortality rate. There are exceptions, such as the difference between semi-detached and townhouse units. However, the general theme is higher density correlated with higher COVID-19 mortality rates.
“People living in duplexes, low-rise and high-rise apartments had mortality rates around 2 times higher than people living in single-detached houses,” Stat Can concludes.
Adding, “living in multi-residential buildings like apartments could increase the risk of COVID-19 due to the need for frequent close contact with others in high-traffic shared areas like lobbies and elevators”
Living In Low Income Households May Increase Your Risk of COVID-19 Mortality… Sort of
That makes sense with a viral pandemic. The more strangers one has close contact with increases the odds of infection. “These results suggest that there may be an association between living in a low-income household and COVID-19 mortality for people living in apartments but not for people living in other private dwellings,” said the agency.
The study doesn’t adjust for region, which is the most obvious explanation. Higher income single-family homes are predominantly located in the City. Urban locations would bias the information to people with more public interaction.
Low income single-family households are likely to be in more remote regions. There aren’t a lot of low income apartment towers over 5 stories in rural Newfoundland. However, there are many single-family homes with modest incomes. The location bias most likely skews the stats on these numbers.
All of this adds up to real estate isn’t great for determining COVID-19 mortality by itself. Without isolating similar regions, this data doesn’t tell us much. This gets even worse when job data isn’t isolated from dwelling as well. Low income households tend to have jobs with more public interaction.
Without isolating job data, it’s hard to say if the apartment is the big factor or the job is. For example, grocery clerks have contact with a large number of people and are often low income. Their mortality rate might be higher due to the large number of people they see. At the same time, the low income makes them biased towards living in an apartment since it is cheaper. The two points might be related, but don’t necessarily prove each other.