Unaffordable Rents and Postponed Medical Care

Unaffordable Rents and Postponed Medical Care
Rachel Meltzer, Alex Schwartz
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Extensive research has shown that when housing costs are high, households make tradeoffs by reducing other living expenses, including medical care. To understand how New York City's high housing costs affect its residents' health, researchers used data from the 2011 Housing Vacancy Survey, a representative survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau with data on more than 16,000 households in New York City. They compared the percent of income spent on housing costs with renters' overall health and reports of delaying medical care for financial reasons. The findings add to the existing evidence that health should be considered when designing housing policies. The authors also note the health benefits of policies that increase funding for repair and maintenance of rental properties.

Major findings:

  • Housing cost burden can predict renters' health. When housing cost burden increases .01, the probability of a renter having good overall health decreases .093.
  • For households with severe rent burdens, the odds of being in good health are even worse.
  • A 10% increase in housing cost burden increases the number of postponed health services by 3.5 (out of 5), and increases the overall likelihood that a renter will postpone medical care by .26.
  • Crowding is also related to medical care postponement.
  • Housing cost burden is equally or more important than physical housing traits in explaining renters' health and postponed medical care.