December 1, 2017

Bipartisan Policy Center Finds Link between the Housing Credit and Public Health

A new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, Building the Case: Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and Health, uses the robust evidence base linking affordable housing to better health outcomes to conclude “the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit contributes positively to the nation’s public health.” As the primary source of financing for virtually all new affordable housing, there are many proven successes of the social, economic and education benefits of Housing Credit properties for families and communities. This report gathers research to support the less studied connection between the Housing Credit and health. 

Highlights from the report:

  • The health of children is most positively impacted by affordable housing. Several studies found that children in unaffordable housing have higher rates of mental health problems, often lack basic access to primary pediatric care, suffer from behavioral or emotional problems due to frequent moving, experience poor nutrition and hospitalization and suffer from other health consequences due to unsafe housing conditions. 
  • Incorporating supportive services in affordable housing – a growing trend in Housing Credit developments - improves health outcomes for residents and may have the potential to save health care costs for both patients and health care systems. One study found that combining affordable housing with intensive services for chronically ill homeless adults saved on average of $6,000 a year per person in health care costs.
  • When housing cost burdens are lowered, families are more easily able to afford healthy lifestyles and necessary health care services. High housing cost burdens were found to result in high prescription-drug non-adherence, poorer self-reported health issues and higher food insecurity.
  • While well-constructed affordable housing can reduce health problems associated with poor housing quality, the quality of surrounding neighborhoods has health implications as well. One study showed that in families who moved from a high-poverty to a low-poverty neighborhood, adults had lower obesity rates, lower prevalence of anxiety and depression and lower diabetes rates. 

The report also explores innovative efforts to leverage the Housing Credit to provide better individual and community health. Most notably, the incorporation of Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) into the development of state Qualified Allocation Plans (QAP) that govern how Housing Credits are awarded. HIA’s examine data, stakeholder comments and subject matter expertise to evaluate the potential public health consequences of policies and provide recommendations for minimizing negative health impacts and amplifying positive ones. 

Though more research is required to demonstrate the specific ways Housing Credit-financed projects can impact heath, the growing evidence to support the linkage of affordable housing to improvements in health draws the logical conclusion that the Housing Credit is a critical policy tool for bettering the nation’s public health. As Congress moves quickly on tax reform, this provides yet another reason to sustain the pillars of our affordable housing delivery system – the Housing Credit and multifamily Housing Bonds. 

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