With a New Urban Institute Initiative, We’re Declaring: Housing Matters

Today, the Urban Institute launches Housing Matters, a new initiative with a refreshed website that reflects the evolution of Urban’s critical body of work on the role of housing in people’s lives.

Thanks to the support of the MacArthur Foundation and its investments in understanding how housing matters for the past several years, Urban has curated research exploring how access to housing affects people’s lives and the communities where they live. We’ve followed the evidence. We’ve analyzed the role housing plays in creating opportunity. We’ve shown how segregation continues to harm people and pocketbooks. And today, because of the collective work of researchers from across different institutions, the broader housing field has a much deeper understanding of how our homes and neighborhoods set the stage for our lives.

The data and evidence are clear: housing matters. It’s about more than just shelter. When people have a quality, affordable, and, most importantly, stable home, it has a ripple effect, translating into improvements in their health, education, and in children’s well-being.

Stable housing also has the capacity to enable future success, providing a foothold for people to grow, learn, and thrive. People choose their housing knowing that their home’s location and surrounding neighborhoods offer access to schools, health care, and friend and family networks that have a tremendous impact on their well-being. Yet this crucial platform for success in life—a stable and decent home—is not available to all.

Given this body of evidence, Urban reached an inflection point: the How Housing Matters website is dropping the how and putting the emphasis on matters, because there’s no question that it does.

We wanted our new initiative’s name—Housing Matters—and the name of this website to reflect the power of stable housing; that having a reliable place to live can profoundly shape the trajectory of people’s lives and that the availability of affordable housing can catalyze prosperity in communities.

Opportunity Amid the Affordable Housing Crisis

Urban’s Housing Matters initiative and website debut at an urgent moment for our nation.

Finding an affordable home is increasingly difficult, not only in hot markets like the nation’s capital and surrounding region but also in every county across the country. Home prices and rents have climbed too high for an increasing share of households nationwide. New construction disproportionately serves the affluent—in part because construction costs in many places are too high to serve less-resourced households. Market pressures and gentrification are pushing people who rent out of their communities. The legacy of racist housing policies and practices, and the systemic racism that endures today, means that people of color disproportionately bear the burden of these pressures.

As the affordable housing challenge grows, it creates headwinds for service providers and advocates in multiple fields. Amid these challenges, though, we see opportunities for ensuring that fewer families experience crises—including homelessness—because of unstable housing. One promising strategy toward this end is for leaders across different fields—education, health care, criminal justice, child welfare, civil rights, and others—to collaborate in designing, funding, and advocating for solutions to the affordable housing crisis.

Although we are still learning about the trade-offs and interactions between different mechanisms— location, quality, or affordability of housing, for instance—that fuel better outcomes for people and communities, emerging evidence tells us that integrating efforts across sectors can have a powerful effect. Imagine if more child welfare agencies investigate the role of housing in child neglect cases and assess the benefits and costs of deploying housing assistance as an early intervention. Doing so could lead to direct funding and increased momentum for housing supports.

A More Integrated Approach to Ensuring Housing Stability

Urban’s Housing Matters initiative—which we’re launching with new support from the Kresge Foundation—embraces partnerships as key to solving our country’s housing problem. Our experts will continue to share knowledge from the field at large, while also examining unanswered questions about partnerships between housing and other sectors to improve people’s well-being, educational opportunities, health, and other interrelated outcomes. We are continuing to lift up evidence about why traditionally fragmented sectors should collaborate more to ensure a more equitable, healthy housing market that allows everyone to thrive. More and more, we’ll be on the ground in communities, taking what we learn to help local decisionmakers and practitioners design evidence-based, tailored responses to their housing challenges.

Our Housing Matters website aims to be a go-to resource for curated information that demonstrates the role of stable housing in creating more equitable, inclusive communities. This refresh means more research, tools, and compelling stories showing the intersections between housing and an array of social and economic fields, as well as the challenges and opportunities that emerge when different sectors address housing instability.

Our hope is that our online resources, as well as the strategic and technical advice Urban researchers and policy experts provide, can help changemakers across different sectors strengthen their alliances. And we hope that ultimately, we can work together to scale effective, integrated solutions to housing instability.

Because home matters for everyone.


Photo by Johnny Grieg/Getty Images