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Any family or individual experiencing a housing crisis can clearly describe its impact. The most obvious is the need to shuffle income to cover the most immediate need, while something else in turn suffers: prescriptions or other health care, school books or adequate clothing, food and other necessities,  transportation to get to work or school..  At worst, the crisis can force a move to substandard housing or the street.

Because the relationship between safe, decent, affordable housing and every other element of our lives is clear, studies and other reports have now documented and, in some cases, quantified, just what this relationship means – and costs – for households, for society, for government.

These include, at least:

  • Health care. Inadequate and substandard housing creates health hazards for children, in particular, but for their families and the elderly, as well as, those with any kind of disability.  Pest infestation is known to cause asthma.  Substandard electrical problems are a danger to children.  Lead poisoning leads to a decrease in IQs.  Children living in inadequate housing have increased hospitalizations and respiratory infections.
  • Educational opportunities. Lack of available affordable housing causes families to move frequently in search of decent housing, often requiring their children to move from school to school to school and, most likely, performing less well because of it.  Higher school-mobility rates affect the entire system and cause the most harm to children whose families have low incomes.
  • Transportation costs. Lack of available affordable housing near employment opportunities increases transportation costs and reduces opportunities for job placement and advancement.
  • The costs of not providing needed affordable housing.   Individuals and families paying excessive amounts of income for housing, do not have funds to pay for other necessities, including health care, child care, food, and transportation.  Reducing their housing costs can put more money into local economies.  By most accounts, quantifying the costs of not providing affordable housing is not exactly a science; however, highlighting the relationship between housing and other necessities is a very powerful foundation that helps build the case for more resources.  Very few comprehensive studies quantify these figures.  One commissioned by Lee County, Florida concluded that the county incurs costs of $250 million a year for its lack of affordable housing.
  • A growing body of evidence has also documented the costs of homelessness.  The National Alliance to End Homeless has summarized some of this research on their website.

Health, Education and Other Relational Studies:

There are vast resources available in this area, particularly around the relationship between affordable housing and health or education.  And, fortunately, many of these have been compiled by the National Housing Conference.  “Vital Links:  Housing’s Contributions to the Nation’s Health and Education Objectives,” includes  research summaries; literature reviews; annotated bibliographies, and fact sheets.

See also: