Children who live in stable, safe, affordable homes are more likely to thrive, both physically and academically, according to twin reports released last week by the Center for Housing Policy and Enterprise Community Partners.
The research, which synthesized findings from various sources, was assembled, in part, to draw direct correlations between housing, health, and school performance, and to cast affordable housing as a top-tier issue on the presidential campaign trail. Studies cited in the reports examined subsidized homeownership, rental assistance, and attainable market-rate housing prices as possible solutions to societal problems exacerbated by substandard housing.
"Our goal is to ensure that affordable housing becomes part of the national debate by framing the important connections between housing and key social outcomes and documenting how stronger housing policies can help America's children and their families realize a brighter future," Jeffrey Lubell, executive director of the Center for Housing Policy, said in a press release.
Well-constructed affordable housing reduces chronic illness and other medical problems by limiting exposure to allergens, neurotoxins, and other hazards, including lead poisoning, according to one study cited. Roughly 14 million children under age six live in rental housing built before 1960, which is more likely to contain lead-based paint. Asthma is more prevalent among kids who live in homes with poor air quality stemming from allergens related to mold, dust mites, cockroaches, or rodents.
Researchers also noted that affordable housing frees up a larger portion of the family budget for preventive healthcare and nutritious food. Children in families receiving housing assistance are half as likely to suffer from iron deficiencies as children in low-income families that are not receiving housing aid. On average, families that own their homes experience fewer long-term illnesses, lower blood pressure, and lower depression levels than those who rent.
The analysis further demonstrated that stable housing can play a significant role in improving kids' academic performance by reducing stress at home and helping families avoid frequent moves, which can be disruptive to education. Statistics showed that children whose families receive housing vouchers move less often, live in nicer neighborhoods, and have lower rates of school absenteeism than those whose families do not receive vouchers. Children of homeowners were found to score up to 9 percent higher on math and up to 7 percent higher on reading tests than those whose families rent their homes.
"These surveys of social science research highlight the importance of affordable housing in helping people up and out of poverty by clearly illustrating the connections between affordable housing and health and education," said Kristin Siglin, vice president of Enterprise Community Partners.