According to research compiled by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, the affordability of housing has clear implications for health. Housing is a social determinant of health for three main reasons: adequate and safe housing conditions, affordability, and residential stability. Housing instability can involve trouble paying rent, overcrowding, moving frequently, staying with relatives, or spending the bulk of household income on housing (spending more than 30% of their income on housing is considered “cost burdened”).
Housing instability disrupts work, school, and day care arrangements, as well as social networks of both parents and children. The financial burden of living in unaffordable housing can prevent families from meeting other basic needs including healthy food and health care. Worries over the stability of one’s housing situation and poor control over the conditions of one’s home can result in toxic stress and potentially, mental disorders. People with low incomes may also be forced to move in with others, potentially resulting in overcrowding which may affect mental health, stress levels, relationships, and sleep, and it may increase the risk of infectious disease.
Housing instability can force renters to live in poorer and higher-crime neighborhoods. People with the lowest incomes may be forced to rent substandard housing that exposes them to health and safety risks such as lead, mold, water leaks, and inadequate heating or cooling systems. Inadequate housing conditions are associated with both physical and mental illnesses including respiratory conditions due primarily to poor indoor air quality, cognitive delays in children from exposure to lead and accidents and injuries as a result of structural deficiencies.
Stable, affordable, safe housing is basic and the lack of it is toxic. We will support efforts to improve housing conditions and stability.