Thursday, November 3, 2011

How Housing Matters, and why

by Blake Warenik, National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy

Housing means more than just shelter. The latest research shows that access to safe, decent, affordable housing offers better children's educational prospects, employment opportunities for adults and the mental and physical health of families. In short, good housing is the foundation upon which vibrant, nurturing communities are built. The startling converse of this truth was best summed up by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan in his speech at our September learning conference: "We can predict health, economic, and educational outcomes of children based on their ZIP code[s]. That’s a tragedy."

To discuss the intersections between housing and health, education and economic development, the Center for Housing Policy's Jeff Lubell joined a host of experts from government, nonprofits, research organizations and academia at the National Building Museum in Washington yesterday for the How Housing Matters Conference, sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and HUD's Office of Policy and Research Development. Lubell moderated Housing as Platform for Economic Opportunity, one of four panels held at the conference.

Donovan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius opened the conference with a conversation on the overlap in their work, promoting interdisciplinary cooperation to promote healthy, educated and prosperous communities.

Other moderators included Housing Partnership Network Vice President of Policy Kristin Siglin, who moderated a panel on housing and education, and HUD Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research Raphael Bostic, who led a panel on housing as a platform for health.

At the conference, the also Center presented three case studies demonstrating how affordable housing programs help residents achieve better health, educational and economic outcomes. Exploring results at a supportive housing development in Vermont, an educational program at a public housing development in Colorado and a family self-suffiency program designed to help Maryland families build assets and escape the cycle of poverty, these case studies offered concrete evidence that housing programs offer residents more than just a place to lay their heads.

If you missed the conference, the National Building Museum is planning to post a suite of video clips and other resources related to How Housing Matters to its website in the near future.

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