Which Types of Federal Housing Assistance Are Associated with Improved Health?

Which Types of Federal Housing Assistance Are Associated with Improved Health?
Andrew Fenelon, Patrick Mayne, Alan E. Simon, Lauren M. Rossen, Veronica Helms, Patricia Lloyd, Jon Sperling, Barry L. Steffen
American Journal of Public Health
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Living in public or multifamily housing, forms of federal housing assistance, is associated with a decreased chance of poor health or psychological distress, but Housing Choice Vouchers are not linked with consistent health benefits, according to Andrew Fenelon and his colleagues. Linking data from the National Health Interview Survey and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the authors form a nationally representative sample of those receiving three types of HUD housing assistance: Housing Choice Vouchers, public housing, or multifamily housing. They compare the reported health statuses and levels of psychological distress for residents receiving each type of housing assistance between 1999 and 2012 with individuals on the waiting lists for these programs and who would get assisted housing within two years, the average time for HUD waiting lists. By using individuals on the waiting lists as a comparison group, the authors controlled for unobservable characteristics and isolated the effect of housing assistance. Their analysis also controlled for individual characteristics, health insurance status, participation in other federal assistance programs, year of interview, and neighborhood characteristics.

Key findings

  • Residents living in public housing and multifamily housing had better health statuses, compared with individuals on waiting lists for housing assistance.
  • Public housing residents also had a lower likelihood of serious psychological distress than future residents.
  • Housing Choice Vouchers were not associated with improved health status or decreased levels of psychological distress.