Rental Assistance Improves Housing Stability, Quality, and Affordability

New research published in Housing Policy Debate, The Effects of Rental Assistance on Housing Stability, Quality, Autonomy, and Affordability,” highlights how rental assistance programs can improve housing outcomes for tenants. Using data from a group of low-income adults in New Haven, CT, the authors find that individuals without rental assistance report higher rates of housing instability, poor quality housing, limited housing autonomy, and unaffordability compared to those receiving rental assistance.

The study uses data from a survey of low-income residents in New Haven to assess housing, incarceration, and health outcomes. Participants self-reported whether they received any type of rental assistance. The sample included 400 residents: 81 received rental assistance, 100 were waitlisted for assistance, and 219 neither received assistance nor were on a waitlist. Researchers measured differences in housing stability, quality, autonomy, and affordability across the three groups.

Researchers assessed housing stability by asking participants about the stability of their current housing situation, whether they worried about being evicted, and how they felt about the permanency of their living situation. Compared to those receiving rental assistance, the researchers found that those without rental assistance were twice as likely to feel unstably housed and worry about eviction often, and three times as likely to view their current housing as temporary. Waitlisted individuals were four times more likely to feel unstably housed, worry about eviction often, and view their current housing as temporary compared to those receiving assistance.

With regard to housing quality, individuals on a waitlist and those not receiving rental assistance were approximately twice as likely to report their housing was in poor condition compared to those receiving rental assistance. These groups were also significantly less satisfied with their current housing situation compared to those receiving rental assistance.

To assess housing autonomy, renters were asked to indicate whether they agreed with the statements “I wish to move but am unable to” and “I am able to sleep where I want.” Waitlisted individuals and those not receiving rental assistance were two and three times more likely to report wanting to move but feeling unable to, respectively. Both groups were approximately two times more likely to report that they could never sleep where they wanted.

Lastly, housing affordability was assessed by asking participants how frequently they worried about being able to pay housing bills and whether they experienced any utility shutoffs due to non-payment. Both groups had approximately two times higher odds of worrying about paying their housing bills. Utility shut offs did not differ significantly across the three groups.

The three groups differed significantly across demographic variables including age, felony conviction status, and disability status. The effects of rental assistance across most housing outcomes, however, were large and statistically significant even after controlling for demographic variables. Evidence from this study adds to a growing body of research that indicates rental assistance can improve housing stability, prevent evictions, and contribute to renters’ health and well-being.

The article can be found at: