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9 ways the lack of affordable housing is hurting America

Quality of life, health, and wealth are just the tip of the iceberg

A new report suggests that the challenge of housing affordability and the dearth of affordable housing could be contributing to the cycle of poverty and underperformance too many Americans are dealing with.

The non-profit Enterprise Community Partners, which has as its goal “ending housing insecurity” published “Impact of Affordable Housing on Families and Communities: A Review of the Evidence Base,” and the findings provide an extensive overview of what is known about the effects of stable and affordable housing on everything from household stability to economic security and from education to health care. (Read the report here.)

“Enterprise believes stable and affordable housing is one of the most important determinants of a healthy life filled with opportunity,” said Tiffany Manuel, VP of knowledge, impact and strategy at Enterprise. “The research is increasingly clear that a place to call home is vital to national progress across sectors, from health and education to our economy and neighborhoods. It’s essential to increase investment in innovations, products, and programs that tackle critical housing issues.”

Enterprise has established a long-term goal of ending housing insecurity in the U.S., meaning no more homelessness or families paying more than half of their income on housing.

The Enterprise study found the following impact of more available affordable housing:

1. Household stability

Studies show that access to decent, affordable housing would provide critical stability for the nearly 19 million low-income U.S. households paying over half of their income on housing, and lower the risk that vulnerable families become homeless.

2. Economic security

High housing costs leave low-income families with little left over for other important expenses, leading to difficult budget trade-offs. Affordable housing increases the amount that families can put toward other important household needs and savings.

3. Education

Housing instability can jeopardize children’s performance and success in school, leading to lasting achievement gaps, while a stable environment contributes to improved educational outcomes

4. Health

Housing insecurity and homelessness have serious negative effects on child and adult health.

5. Asthma

Green housing initiatives can improve family health, especially for children at risk of asthma, leading to better school performance and fewer missed school days.

6. Energy

Energy efficiency improvements reduce long-term operating costs for buildings, which helps to keep rents affordable.

7. Transportation

Transportation costs rose dramatically over the last decade, leaving families with less money for other necessities. Housing close to transit can help residents save money and access jobs and critical community services, while improving health.

8. Neighborhood Quality

Affordable housing increases local purchasing power, boosts job creation, and generates new tax revenues.

9. Seniors

Quality housing can promote better health, quality of life, and independence for the growing population of low-income seniors.

Authored by Amy Brisson and Lindsay Duerr, the study draws on research from nearly 100 industry reports and academic studies, contributing to a growing body of evidence demonstrating the positive effects of affordable housing on individuals, families and communities.

Enterprise believes the findings show the need to grow the existing affordable rental housing stock and to protect programs like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, among other housing incentives. 

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