NHC Reviews State of Research on Housing and Healthcare Costs

A new literature review by Lisa Sturtevant and Janet Viveiros of the National Housing Conference (NHC), How Investing in Housing Can Save on Health Care, examines the current state of research on the relationship between housing and healthcare costs. Most studies included in the review suggested that public investments in housing were associated with reduced healthcare costs, especially among specific homeless populations. The authors also highlighted limitations in current studies and the need for further research to support advocacy efforts. 

Some of the most compelling studies quantifying healthcare savings focused on supportive housing interventions for homeless individuals with chronic health conditions, mental illness, or substance abuse problems. Some notable findings cited in the review include:

  • An evaluation of the New York/New York Agreement to House Homeless Mentally Ill Individuals found that 90% of the costs of supportive housing were offset by reductions in the use of other public services, including healthcare.
  • An analysis of a Housing First program serving homeless individuals with severe alcohol problems in Seattle achieved annual savings of $42,964 in health costs per person compared to the cost of providing housing and services at $13,440 per person.
  • A study of homeless individuals with disabilities in Maine found they used $28,045 worth of public health services annually compared to $14,009 after receiving supportive housing. The cost of permanent supportive housing provided in the program was $13,092 per person per year, so the net public savings was approximately $900 per person per year.

Although most research on health costs and supportive housing interventions has been limited to short-term evaluations, one study was conducted over a seven-year period at a supportive housing project in San Francisco. The study tracked 51 seniors with severe psychiatric, medical, or substance abuse issues. Results showed that in the seventh year of the study residents used a total of $1.46 million less in public health services than in the year before their entry into supportive housing.

The NHC literature review also summarized studies of other affordable housing programs but found that these generally failed to monetize the impact of housing interventions on healthcare costs. The authors make recommendations for the future, including greater investments in supportive housing as a proven healthcare cost-saving program as well as continued and rigorous evaluation of healthcare cost-savings of different affordable housing interventions.

How Investing in Housing Can Save on Health Care is available at http://bit.ly/23fgFQI