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Housing strategies to strengthen families

Housing strategies can reduce residential instability, improve housing quality, and strengthen housing affordability.

Children who experience stable housing are more likely to experience positive economic mobility outcomes at every life stage. Adults in stable housing see better health and employment outcomes.

How does housing impact family well-being?

Residential stability supports employment stability. 1

Adults experiencing a residential crisis are more likely to be late for or miss work. Forced relocations are correlated with higher levels of job loss.

Residential stability contributes to children’s healthy development. 2

Children experiencing residential instability demonstrate worse academic and social outcomes than their residentially stable peers, such as lower vocabulary skills, grade retention, increased high school drop-out rates, and lower adult educational attainment.

Children thrive in stable, predictable household environments. 3

Frequent or abrupt moves often produce chaotic household environments. For children, household chaos has been found to predict poor attention skills, learning difficulties, difficulty with delayed gratification, less receptive vocabulary skills, lower IQ scores, and lower ability to process social cues.

Stable schooling and childcare arrangements produce better outcomes for children. 4

Multiple forced moves often cause children and families to change schools or childcare providers, which can hamper child development, academic progress, and social skills.

Safe, healthy housing is positively associated with children’s development and family well-being. 5

Insufficient home insulation, the absence of hot water, pest infestation, mold, inadequate ventilation, and other environmental factors in homes are associated with greater incidences of infectious diseases, chronic illnesses, injuries, poor nutrition, mental disorders, and cognitive development issues.

Moving to better housing or a higher opportunity neighborhood improves lifetime outcomes for children. 6

Lower-income children are more likely to experience upward economic mobility if they grow up in areas with less concentrated poverty, better schools, a large share of two-parent families, and lower crime rates. The earlier children move to a higher opportunity neighborhood, the stronger the positive effects.

Categories of successful interventions

  • Eviction, displacement, and homelessness prevention: Programs or services that help at-risk tenants avoid eviction and displacement
  • Home ownership programs: Programs that help lower-income renters become homeowners or help low-income homeowners remain in their homes
  • Housing quality programs: Services that improve and ensure housing quality and safety

Evidence-based interventions

Intervention Type Category Evidence Level
Community land trusts Strategy
  • Affordable housing creation and preservation
Strong (second-highest tier)
Debt advice for tenants with unpaid rents Strategy
  • Eviction, displacement, and homelessness prevention
Strong (second-highest tier)
Healthy home environment assessments Strategy
  • Housing quality programs
Proven (highest tier)
Housing First Program
  • Eviction, displacement, and homelessness prevention
Proven (highest tier)
Housing rehabilitation loan and grant programs Strategy
  • Housing quality programs
Proven (highest tier)
Land banking Strategy
  • Affordable housing creation and preservation
  • Built environment improvements
Strong (second-highest tier)
Lead paint abatement programs Strategy
  • Housing quality programs
Proven (highest tier)
Legal support for tenants facing eviction Strategy
  • Eviction, displacement, and homelessness prevention
Strong (second-highest tier)
Rapid re-housing initiatives Strategy
  • Eviction, displacement, and homelessness prevention
Strong (second-highest tier)
Service-enriched housing Strategy
  • Service-enriched housing
Strong (second-highest tier)
Footnotes
  1. Theodos, McTarnaghan, and Coulton, "Family Residential Instability: What Can States and Localities Do?" Urban Institute 2018
    https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/98286/family_residential_instability_what_can_states_and_localities_do_1.pdf
  2. Rice, Schmit, and Matthews, "Child Care and Housing: Big Expenses With Too Little Help Available," Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 2019
    https://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/4-29-19hous.pdf
  3. Sandstrom and Huerta, "The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development: A Research Synthesis," Urban Institute 2013
    https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/32706/412899-The-Negative-Effects-of-Instability-on-Child-Development-A-Research-Synthesis.PDF
  4. Sandstrom and Huerta, "The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development: A Research Synthesis," Urban Institute 2013
    https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/32706/412899-The-Negative-Effects-of-Instability-on-Child-Development-A-Research-Synthesis.PDF
  5. Krieger and Higgins, "Housing and Health: Time Again for Public Health Action," American Journal of Public Health 2002
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447157/
  6. Chetty and Hendren, "The Impacts of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility: Childhood Exposure Effects and County-Level Estimates," Equality of Opportunity 2015
    http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/images/nbhds_exec_summary.pdf