Renters Report Housing Costs Significantly Impact Their Health Care

Low-Income Patients Forced to Choose Between Rent and Health Care Posing Risk for Eviction

A new national report from Enterprise’s Health Begins with Home program shows that more than half of renters have delayed medical care because they could not afford it. The report results come from a first-of-its-kind national survey from Enterprise Community Partners.

Enterprise Community Partners’ Health Begins With Home program found that more than half (54 percent) of renters surveyed have delayed medical care because they couldn’t afford it. Medical professionals were largely aware that their patients were struggling with housing affordability, and yet there was a disconnect.  Nearly all (95 percent) lower income renters say that rent is their most important bill, but 78 percent of medical professionals think their lower income patients would prioritize their medical bills over rent. 
It is a safe assumption to draw from this report the conclusion that medical professionals might not understand the connection between rent and eviction.  If these lower income renters prioritize paying rent over medical bills, they put themselves at risk for eviction and possibly homelessness.
Renters who are paying a high percentage of their income for housing are regularly making difficult tradeoffs between rent and health care.  This report helps make the case that Housing is Healthcare.  Households with affordable housing that they pay no more than 30% of their income towards have greater flexibility to afford healthcare and other basic human needs.
The findings paint a stark picture of the state of health care and affordable homes in the U.S. The survey showed the following additional findings:
  • Every one of the 500 medical professionals surveyed reported that at least some of their patients have expressed concerns about affordable housing, with 31 percent of those professionals reporting that at least one quarter of their patients have expressed concerns about having an affordable place to live. This number increases to 42 percent among medical professionals with a larger low-income patient population.  
  • Among those who delayed care because of affordability, the most frequently delayed types of treatment included preventive routine check-ups (42 percent), seeking treatment while sick (38 percent) and buying over-the-counter medications (35 percent).
  • 44 percent of medical professionals believe a lack of accessible health care hinders the health of lower income communities, and less than half (48 percent) of lower income respondents are satisfied with health care accessibility where they live.
“No one should have to choose between paying rent and paying for health care,” said Laurel Blatchford, president, Enterprise Community Partners. “And yet, thousands of people make that difficult trade off every day. That’s wrong. By working closely with health care organizations, we’re creating ways for renters to afford the health care they need.”
Even worse, the data show that painful tradeoffs between housing and health care are even more common among severely rent-burdened respondents, who are people paying more than 50 percent of their monthly income for housing. Severely rent-burdened respondents reported the following:
  • 83 percent said they prioritize paying rent before anything else, compared with 1 percent prioritizing health care costs.
  • Nearly half (45 percent) have not followed a treatment plan provided by a health care professional because they couldn’t afford it, compared with 34 percent of all renter respondents.
The survey is part of Health Begins with Home, a national Enterprise initiative to harness the power of affordable homes to create healthier families and stronger communities.
Click here to read more about the new national survey from Enterprise.
Click here to learn more about Health Begins with Home.