decade from beliefs that the homeless were not ready for permanent housing and had to be gradually eased back into society through transitional programs to embracing a “housing first” approach that provides families and individuals with homes and supportive services. Research shows that housing first initiatives are more successful in fighting recidivism and medical costs than transitional hous- ing, even for chronically homeless individuals with mental illness. 21 Ultimately, providing safe and affordable housing to all individuals, even the homeless, is a win-win solution for all. Affordable Housing and Health Safe, affordable, and well-maintained housing in thriving neighborhoods is crit- ical to individuals’ health, especially young children, the elderly, and those with chronic illness. Numerous studies find that residents of lower income neighbor- hoods are at an increased risk of physical and mental health problems due to a variety of housing-related factors. 22 How Neighborhoods and Housing Affect Health Research shows that inadequate housing in less desirable neighborhoods affects individual health through short-term influences on behavior and long-term con- sequences of poor health choices. 23 Lack of proper neighborhood institutions such as health facilities and supermarkets discourage healthy habits such as healthcare utilization and proper diet. 24, 25, 26 In addition, unhealthy neighbor- hood norms and stress (such as trauma from violence) undermine the attitudes of residents towards maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. The cumulative effects of years of neglect and deprivation “weather” down individuals’ well-be- ing, leading to all-around poor health and high mortality rates. 27 The Effects of Affordable Housing on Health Nutrition : Housing instability and food insecurity are major barriers to proper health among low-income Americans, 28 and the two go hand-in-hand. Food costs remain relatively constant regardless of income; unlike affordable housing costs, which are defined as a percentage of monthly income, food costs are not propor- tional to salary. Thus, unaffordable rents negatively impact nutrition by reduc- ing the residual income (after housing costs) families have to spend on food. 29 A study by Fletcher et al found that every $500 increase in annual rent led to a 10% increase in food insecurity rates among low-income families. 30 These sta- tistics are especially troubling in their implications for families with young chil- dren, who need constant nutrition to develop and grow. Children who grow up in low-income families living in unaffordable houses are more likely to be vita- min deficient, underweight, and exhibit slower mental development than their peers. 31, 32, 33 Programs that assist struggling families with lower utility costs decrease instances of food insecurity and unstable housing.
Pay for Success & Affordable Housing | Stefano Rumi 17
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