Report Describes Educational Needs of Children in Publicly Supported Homes, Proposes Housing-Centered Educational Supports

The Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation (PAHRC) released A Platform to Learn: How Housing Programs Can Support the Educational Needs of Children Living in Publicly Supported Homes. The report finds that children living in publicly supported homes (including the Housing Choice Voucher program, Low Income Housing Tax Credit projects, and public housing) are likelier to face challenges and impediments to educational achievement, and the schools they attend may exhibit below-average performance. The authors examine how housing-centered educational supports can effectively promote positive educational outcomes.

The authors find that children living in publicly supported housing are more likely to face several challenges that can impede academic success. Such children are more likely than the general population to have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), asthma, speech impairments, learning disabilities, and development delays. Although such conditions are largely genetic, stress and adverse childhood experiences associated with poverty may explain higher rates of these conditions. Furthermore, these children are likelier to have chronic health conditions: 32% of voucher-assisted school-aged children reported a general disability, compared to 20% of children living in renter households earning less than $40,000 per year and not receiving housing assistance. All of these factors can interfere with educational success.

The authors report that children living in publicly supported housing were likelier to attend poorer-performing schools. Despite the likely need for greater resources in schools that serve low-income households—given the higher frequency of learning disabilities, health issues, and environmental stressors—many schools serving assisted households have fewer resources than the average. The report notes that 39% of project-based homes were in neighborhoods where spending per student was below the median, and 37% were in neighborhoods with higher-than-average student-teacher ratios. Forty-three percent of project-based homes were in neighborhoods with lower rates of pre-K attendance than the surrounding area, suggesting that many children in assisted households do not have the opportunity to attend pre-K. Further, high schools serving these students may not be preparing them well for college: 48% of project-based homes were in neighborhoods where schools had lower SAT or ACT completion rates than the area median, despite the fact that those exams are free for students participating in the federal free-lunch program.

Parents receiving housing assistance tend to be just as, or more, involved in their children’s education than their peers. Parents in voucher-assisted households attended more meetings with teachers than unassisted parents earning below $40,000 annually. Children from assisted households have higher rates of school attendance than children from unassisted households. The authors argue that the housing stability that assistance provides may partly explain these higher rates. Children in assisted households, however, have lower rates of access to a computer at home, and children in low-income families are generally less likely to take part in enrichment activities that supplement in-school learning.

The report describes how housing-centered programs can complement the work of educators. The authors suggest some measures housing providers can take to design programs that address the specific needs of these children. Addressing environmental health issues can provide relief from asthma and allergy triggers at home. Bringing health partners onsite or co-locating clinics can provide additional options for non-emergency care. Discounted internet service, computer labs, and mobile hotspots can help students complete online assignments. After-school tutoring, recreation programs, and other forms of enrichment can supplement what children can access at school. The report describes how six public housing authorities are implementing such programs.

The full report can be accessed at: