Subsidized Housing Improves Conditions Related to Child and Family Health Outcomes

A study published in the recent issue of Housing Policy Debate titled “Development of an Index of Subsidized Housing Availability and its Relationship to Housing Insecurity,” provides evidence that an increase in subsidized rental housing in communities decreases housing insecurity among low income families, which has implications for improving a range of child and family health outcomes.

There is a significant and growing literature on child and family health as it relates to housing security. However, the study noted a gap in the literature regarding the specific relationship between housing insecurity and the availability of subsidized housing. The authors developed an indicator called the Subsidized Housing Availability Index (SHA Index), which provides a ratio of existing subsidized units available in an area relative to demand from low income, cost-burdened households. The index was calculated for five study: Little Rock, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Boston, and Philadelphia. Data on housing insecurity were collected through survey interviews with caregivers of children receiving services at urban medical centers in each of the five study sites.   

The study found that an increase in the availability of subsidized housing predicted a significantly decreased likelihood for two measures of housing insecurity: overcrowding and multiple moves in the past year. These “results estimate that if subsidized units are made available to an additional 5% of the eligible population, the odds of overcrowding decrease by 26% and the odds of families making multiple moves decrease by 31%.” Overcrowding and multiple moves are both known predictors of poor child and family health outcomes.

The results suggest that expanding the subsidized housing stock can improve housing security and, by extension, child and family health outcomes. The authors recommend increased investments in affordable housing through programs like the National Housing Trust Fund, local housing trust funds, and others.  

The study utilized survey data from Children’s HealthWatch, county-level data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and subsidized housing data from HUD’s A Picture of Subsidized Households—2008.

An on-line version of Development of an Index of Subsidized Housing Availability and its Relationship to Housing Insecurity was published in April 2015 and is available at Children’s HealthWatch at