While Gap Between Rent and Incomes Widens, Housing Remains First Rung on the Ladder to Opportunity
A September 19, 2018 article in How Housing Matters, “How Housing Can Determine Educational, Health, and Economic Outcomes” makes the case that “Many social issues stem from a history of unstable, un-affordable, and poor-quality housing.”
“Research shows that housing is the first rung on the ladder to economic opportunity for individuals and that a person’s access to opportunity is intrinsically linked with that of the community at large. As the gap between rents and incomes widens, it is critical that professionals in fields outside housing—including health, education, and economic development, among others—understand its central importance.”
- Working at the minimum wage of $8.60/hour, renters would have to work 107 hours/week to afford a 1-bedroom home at fair market rent.
- The Fair Market Rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in New Jersey is $1,199/month and for a 2-bedroom apartment is $1,465/month.
Below are some examples of the critical educational, health, and economic outcomes that are affected by housing:
- Children who live in a crowded household at any time before age 19 are less likely to graduate from high school and tend to have lower educational attainment at age 25.
- Living in poor-quality housing and disadvantaged neighborhoods is associated with lower kindergarten readiness scores.
- Homeless students are less likely to demonstrate proficiency in academic subjects.
- Housing and financial instability often lead to children moving to poorer schools.
- Being behind on rent, moving multiple times, and experiencing homelessness are associated with adverse health outcomes for caregivers and children and with material hardship.
- In one study, older homeless adults who obtained housing during the study reported fewer depressive symptoms than those who were still homeless at follow-up.
- Black per capita income is lower in regions with higher levels of economic and black-white segregation.
- The need for access to good jobs in central locations that is driving the lack of affordable housing shows that access to housing and access to opportunity are inextricably linked, which affects future intergenerational mobility.
- Places with higher job accessibility by public transit are more likely to attract low-income households that do not own cars but have at least one employed worker, demonstrating that job accessibility by transit affects housing location choice.
- Economically healthy cities tend to have higher rankings on economic, racial, and overall inclusion than distressed cities.
The article concludes by making the case that “Federal housing assistance—from housing vouchers, to welfare-to-work programs, to financial coaching and incentives, and more—improves lives. Housing policies can be a tool to fight poverty and create upward mobility, making assistance a worthwhile and imperative investment in America’s future.”
Individuals impacted by homelessness shared stories of how federally funded programs such as housing vouchers helped them stabilize their lives and gain opportunity.
How Housing Matters is an online resource for the most rigorous research and practical information on how a quality, stable, affordable home in a vibrant community contributes to individual and community success.