Decent Housing Improves Children's Health, Education
Two new research reports released on July 26 by Enterprise Community Partners and the Center for Housing Policy document the critical impact of decent, affordable housing on the health and education of children and make a strong case for elevating housing on the national agenda.
The surveys of social science research found that families living in affordable housing are likely to have more money to spend on health care and food-related expenses, resulting in better overall health and nutrition.
One study, for example, found that children whose families receive housing assistance were approximately 50% less likely to suffer from iron deficiencies than children in low-income families that do not receive housing aid. Additionally, by alleviating crowding, affordable housing can reduce exposure to stress and infectious disease, resulting in improvements in physical and mental health.
The research also found that well-constructed and managed affordable housing developments can reduce health problems associated with poor quality housing by limiting exposure to allergens, neurotoxins and other dangers. In particular, children living in housing free from pesticides, mold and cockroach infestation are less likely to develop asthma and, as a result, to miss school.
Stable, affordable housing may also improve the health of individuals with chronic illnesses and disabilities, and the elderly, by providing a stable and efficient platform for the ongoing delivery of health care and other needed services.
According to the research analysis on housing’s impact on education, housing stability plays a key role in helping children do better in school. Children who moved frequently tended to do less well in school and also to consume a disproportionate amount of educational resources, putting other children at a disadvantage.
By helping families avoid unplanned moves, affordable housing can help them achieve greater residential and school stability, the research found.
The analysis indicates that affordable housing developments may function as a platform for educational improvements by providing opportunities for residential-based after-school programs or by anchoring the development of a community that includes new or improved schools. Affordable housing can also reduce overcrowding and other sources of housing-related stress that lead to negative developmental and educational outcomes for children. Affordable housing may also support children’s educational achievement by reducing homelessness among families.
The data also revealed that children in families receiving housing vouchers live in better neighborhoods and are less likely to move frequently and to miss school compared to children in families that do not receive vouchers. When well-located, other forms of affordable housing may have similar benefits.
Moving to a neighborhood with less poverty or a stronger school system can improve children’s educational achievements by facilitating the development of stronger social ties and access to role models and community resources, as well as reducing exposure to crime and violence, the report says. For example, one of the research studies cited found that children whose families moved from inner city public housing into suburban neighborhoods were substantially more likely than their peers in the city to complete high school, take college-prep courses, go to college and enter the workforce.