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High-quality affordable housing impacts children's health, education

Reviews of new research show how affordable housing supports stronger health and educational outcomes

May 19, 2011

WASHINGTON—Even as Congress debates whether to cut the federal housing budget and reduce the federal role in supporting the housing finance system, researchers have uncovered more evidence of the important role that well-designed affordable housing plays in supporting positive health and educational outcomes. 

The Center for Housing Policy (the Center), the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference, today released two literature reviews on the connections between housing and health and housing and education. These briefs update 2007 reports on the same subjects with new evidence from the latest research.  The new research documented in these reports suggests that high-quality affordable housing can support health and educational outcomes in multiple ways. 

A related April 2011 report by Senior Research Associates Rebecca Cohen and Keith Wardrip, Should I Stay or Should I Go? Exploring the Effects of Housing Instability and Mobility on Children, looked into the health and educational effects that frequent moves and unstable housing situations have on children, and the role of affordable housing in promoting greater residential stability. 

Housing and Health

The direct effects of poor quality or unsafe housing on health are well established; researchers have also increasingly turned significant attention to the role of housing affordability in fostering stability and reducing stress. In her brief, The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Health: A Research Summary, Cohen details the results of research on the pathways through which affordable housing can affect the health of residents, especially children.

Key Findings

  • The availability of high-quality affordable homes enables families to spend a greater share of household income on nutritious food, healthcare expenditures, and other essentials that promote good health. 
  • Affordable housing allows families to achieve greater residential stability, reducing the stress and disruptions associated with frequent or unwanted moves and providing a platform for individuals with chronic illnesses and other conditions to receive needed care.
  • By providing families with access to high quality homes in safe neighborhoods, certain affordable housing strategies can reduce stress and exposure to violent or traumatic events, generating important psychological and mental health benefits

Read the full brief

Read Cohen and Wardrip’s April 2011 Report on Housing Instability, Mobility and Children

Housing and Education

The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Education: A Research Summary, a brief by Senior Research Associate Maya Brennan, uncovers a wealth of research suggesting that stable, affordable housing provides children with enhanced opportunities for educational success.  The brief reviews literature showing that the supportive and stable home environment encouraged by high-quality, affordable housing often leads to better educational outcomes.

Key Findings

  • Stable, affordable housing complements the efforts of educators, leading to better student achievement, reduced absenteeism, and reductions in student turnover rates.
  • Affordable housing can reduce the frequency of unwanted moves that disrupt children's education and, in classrooms with high turnover rates, have negative spillover effects on teachers and classmates. 
  • Housing assistance that reduces concentrated poverty and helps families access neighborhoods of opportunity can improve children's educational achievement, leading to higher test scores and an increased likelihood of completing high school and enrolling in college. 

Read the full brief

Read all housing, health and education reports at the Center’s Vital Links page

Acknowledgements

The Center for Housing Policy gratefully acknowledges funding for these reports from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as well as the support and partnership of Enterprise Community Partners for the earlier research reviews on which these new reports are based.  Any error or opinions, however, are those of the authors alone.