Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why is Affordable Housing So Important? The Health and Development of Children Depend on It

Children playing at an after school program, sponsored by
Chelsea Neighborhood Developers in Massachusetts. 
by Leila Edmonds, Director
National Initiatives and Applied Research
NeighborWorks America

When there is housing instability, the most vulnerable in our society suffer. We recently shed a light on this issue at our symposium on senior housing in Atlanta, and now a recent study has again confirmed what we’ve always known: unstable housing has a significant, negative impact on the health and development of young children.

The study was published by the American Journal of Public Health, and it found that when children are moved multiple times a year or live in households where there is overcrowding, they have a greater risk for poor health (18 percent) than children living in secure households (11 percent). In addition, 22 percent of caregivers in households reporting multiple moves within a single year reported developmental problems in their children, whereas only 14 percent of caregivers in secure households reported similar risks.

These problems are compounded when families are poor and there’s not always food on the table. We’ve all seen the headlines on the growth in poverty in America. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2010, 25.3 percent of children under the age of six lived in poverty in the U.S. When housing insecurity is combined with food insecurity, the risk for poor health, developmental delays and hospitalization are even greater.

This is why the work we do at NeighborWorks America and across the network of 235 organizations is so very important: the health and development of our children depend on it. In 2007 NeighborWorks America released about a report on the benefits of homeownership. We found that children of homeowners are 25 percent more likely to graduate high school, 116 percent more likely to attend college and teenage pregnancy is 20 percent less likely.

Consistent housing also produces higher reading and math scores and lower rates of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.

NeighborWorks encourages families and individuals searching for safe, affordable and stable housing to find a local housing counseling agency in their area. Providing affordable housing is the first step towards fighting the rise in poverty and homelessness in children. http://www.nw.org/network/nwdata/homeownershipcenter.asp.