An article published in Housing Policy Debate, “Development of an Index of Subsidized Housing Availability and its Relationship to Housing Insecurity,” shows that if subsidized rental units are made available to an additional 5% of eligible households, the odds of overcrowding decrease by 26% and the odds of families making multiple moves decreases by 31%.
The authors used data from a study done by Children’s HealthWatch from 2006 to 2008, in which more than 14,000 caregivers of children under 3 years of age were interviewed at urban medical centers in Baltimore, MD, Boston, MA, Little Rock, AR, Minneapolis, MN, and Philadelphia, PA. The sample used in this research came from nearly 9,000 of those interviews.
The study uses a Subsidized Housing Availability Index (SHA Index), which is the total number of subsidized units available in an area, relative to the demand for these units from low-income households with a head of household less than 62 years of age paying more than 30% of their income on housing costs. In this study, subsidized units include public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, and Section 8 New Construction and Moderate Rehabilitation and includes both occupied and unoccupied units. The SHA Index varies across the five research sites, but no site has more than a third of the estimated units required to meet the demand for subsidized units. The SHA Index ranges from 0.21 in Philadelphia, PA to 0.33 in Boston, MA.
Four housing insecurity variables were also used in this study: households that had two or more moves in the last year (3% of sample), households that were overcrowded or living with others due to a lack of financial resources (29% of sample), households that reported being behind on rent payments in the last year (25% of sample), and homeless households (3% of the sample). If a household reported any of these conditions, it was categorized as housing insecure. Housing insecurity is associated with an increased likelihood of poor child development outcomes, particularly in the areas of health and education.
The percentage of households in the study with housing stability varied from 30% in Minneapolis to 51% in Baltimore. Most of the caregivers interviewed were African American (56.6%) or Hispanic (28.8%) and are not married (61.2%). Forty-three percent had a high school diploma and 33% had not graduated from high school. Twenty-six percent of study participants received a housing subsidy while 17% were on a waiting list for one.
The authors found that a 5% increase in the availability of subsidized units, or an increase of 50 subsidized housing units per 1,000 low income residents paying more than 30% of income on housing, resulted in an estimated 26% decrease in the odds of overcrowding and a 31% decrease in the odds of multiple moves among low income households with children. These results indicate that increasing the supply of subsidized housing decreases the likelihood of housing insecurity, thereby improving young children’s health and development, and their families’ food security.
The authors provide several policy suggestions to increase the availability of affordable units, with an emphasis on the need for housing trust funds at the city, state, and national level.
The full article is available at http://www.childrenshealthwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/Subsidized-Housing-Index-HI-2015.pdf