Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Centerpiece: How Does Housing Matter to Families and Communities?

How important is having a stable, affordable, decent place to live, and how does it affect other life outcomes? While the importance of shelter is clear, policy experts in the housing field have long recognized housing’s effect on other social and economic issues. A recent announcement by The MacArthur Foundation that it will fund a $25-million research initiative on affordable housing’s impact underscores the need for more data to explore these connections.

The research initiative is part of McArthur’s 2011 How Housing Matters to Families and Communities research initiative. Proposals can be for quantitative or qualitative research that will add to the empirical evidence of affordable housing’s impact on children, families and communities. Researchers should also consider how their studies could be used to strengthen housing policies or programs or integrate affordable housing into human and community development policies. In the call for proposals, the Foundation noted special interest in research that looks at the connection of housing with outcomes for older adults, public safety and criminal justice system involvement and education. Research abstracts of no more than 1500 words are due on Friday, April 8. Details on submitting abstracts, including the structure and timeline, can be found in the Call for Housing Research Proposals.

The Center for Housing Policy’s research on Housing Intersections also explores these connections. Without stability, families are likely to have higher stress levels, problems accessing medical care, and poorer educational outcomes for their children. When housing is unaffordable, people may defer spending on other important items, such as food and healthcare, settle for poor quality housing or move far from job opportunities and end up spending all of their savings and free time to commute into a high-cost area. When housing quality is lacking, the daily risks to families’ health and safety can be devastating. And, as the foreclosure crisis has shown, housing doesn’t just affect the families who live in it; it can affect the whole community.

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