Monday, August 31, 2015

Making connections: Research on and about the Internet

Developing solutions through research
by Lisa Sturtevant, Ph.D., National Housing Conference 

Having access to a computer and the Internet at home is something that most of us take for granted.  But a new research brief published by NHC’s Center for Housing Policy shows that low-income renters are much less likely to have home computer or Internet access compared to other households. About 37 percent of extremely low-income renters do not have a home computer and more than half do not have home Internet access. By contrast, only 16 percent of all U.S. households do not have a home computer and 26 percent are not able to access the Internet at home.

Having a home computer and Internet access is increasingly important for individual and family well-being and self-sufficiency. The availability of Internet access is associated with greater student achievement, improved health outcomes and less social isolation, as well as with more robust economic growth. Connecting to the Internet is increasingly the way people learn, get health care information, share news, pay bills and interact with government. The Center will release two case studies of programs that have brought home computer and Internet access to residents of subsidized housing, the Housing Authority of the City of Austin’s Unlocking the Connection Program in Texas, and Eden Housing’s Cottonwood Place residence in Fremont, California.

The Center has several other projects underway designed to connect the affordable housing community to research and resources online. Building on our HousingPolicy.org site and our work on inclusive communities, we soon launch an online portal that highlights key strategies and policies for expanding affordable housing options in areas of opportunity. And our interactive Paycheck to Paycheck tool will be updated to allow exploration of housing affordability for 80 occupations across 208 metropolitan areas. This year’s Paycheck will focus on millennial workers and the particular challenges they face in finding affordable housing options and stretching their paychecks to meet all of their household expenses. Both of these online resources will be completed in September. Look for announcements from NHC on their release and plan on exploring these online tools.

Finally, the Center continues to think about ways to present information in a compelling and interactive way through NHC’s website. We would love to hear your ideas for interesting and innovative ways we can use the Internet to connect housing practitioners with research and data. Thoughts and suggestions about expanding and enhancing our online presence would be greatly appreciated. You can email me at LSturtevant@nhc.org.

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