Housing Subsidies and Family Health

In the U.S., the key challenge for many households is housing affordability. Households paying more than one-half of a limited total income for rent have very little left over for food, transportation, education, and other critical expenses. And these rent burdens have only been growing. In 1960, fewer than one in four renters was rent-burdened (or paid more than 30 percent of their income on rent); today that fraction is nearly half.

Despite this growing challenge, few studies examine how the health of a family changes when it is invited to move into a subsidized home or receive a housing voucher to cover part of its rent. To fill this gap, the research team will study the impact of rent subsidies on health outcomes by focusing on families receiving three types of assistance. The team will examine:

  1. Changes in health and health care utilization of children moving into public and other HUD-assisted rental housing;
  2. Impacts of moving into developments created through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC); and,
  3. How the receipt of housing choice vouchers affects children’s health care utilization and health status.

Housing subsidies may improve health status in several ways. First, and most directly, families will immediately have more disposable income to pay for food, clothing, and other critical expenditures that may enhance their health. Second, the relief from rent burdens may remove stress from parents and children. Third, the new housing may help to stabilize families who have suffered from repeated displacement and allow them to remain in their homes. Finally, especially with housing choice vouchers, subsidies may enable families to move to higher quality homes and neighborhoods with more resources.