How an Increase in Housing Subsidies Would Help Young Children

How an Increase in Housing Subsidies Would Help Young Children
Kathryn T. Bailey, John T. Cook, Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba, Patrick H. Casey, Mariana Chilton, Sharon M. Coleman, Diana Becker Cutts, Timothy C. Heeren, Ruth Rose-Jacobs, Maureen M. Black, Deborah A. Frank
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Overcrowded housing and frequent residential moves have well-documented connections with poor health outcomes for children. Research published in Housing Policy Debate explores the relationship between these factors (collectively described as "housing insecurity") and the availability of subsidized housing. Data come from Children’s HealthWatch's ongoing survey of the caregivers of young children at five urban medical centers as well as a Subsidized Housing Availability (SHA) index developed from Census data, the American Community Survey, and HUD's Picture of Subsidized Households. The SHA index indicates the share of subsidized units in an area compared with low-income, non-senior households paying more than 30% of income for rent. The Children's HealthWatch survey locations are Baltimore, Boston, Little Rock, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia.

Major findings:

  • Financial assistance to low-income families, in the form of housing subsidies, is associated with reductions in housing insecurity. Additional subsidies could be expected to generate positive health outcomes for children.
  • A 5 percent increase in subsidized housing units would decrease low-income households' odds of overcrowding by 26 percent.
  • A 5 percent increase in subsidized housing units would lower a low-income families' odds of moving frequently by 31 percent.
  • Between 2006 and 2008, the Subsidized Housing Availability index for the 5 cities studied ranged from .21 in Philadelphia to .33 in Boston.

The findings have implications for medication compliance, food security and residential utility coverage, as households that are behind on rent make tradeoffs among housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and other expenses. For example, families living in cost-burdened households spent 39 percent less on food each month than non-cost burdened households did.