Assisted Housing May Lead to Health Benefits for Low-Income Renters

Assisted Housing May Lead to Health Benefits for Low-Income Renters
Deirdre Pfeiffer
Housing Policy Debate
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Americans are spending more on health care than they ever have, yet the nation has one of the lowest life expectancy rates among developed countries. Factors such as access to healthy food, housing, and neighborhoods can affect people’s health, so how does assistance affect low-income people’s health in particular? In this study, Deirdre Pfeiffer sought to determine the potential health impacts of rental assistance on low-income people. She explains that housing assistance can improve low-income renters’ health by offering low, fixed housing costs; providing protection against eviction; and offering access to better homes and neighborhoods. Pfeiffer uses data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation’s 2001, 2004, and 2008 panels and applies a few econometric techniques, including linear and logistic regression, to determine the effects of having and receiving assistance for the first time through public housing or Section 8 vouchers on two health outcomes that low-income renters experience: their reported health status and health care spending over the year. The findings suggest that protecting and expanding rental housing assistance to low-income people could reduce health disparities.

Key findings

  • Renters who received housing assistance spent less money on average on health care over the year than renters who did not receive housing assistance (about $400 less for public housing recipients and $377 less for Section 8 voucher recipients). This means that providing housing assistance to low-income renters may lead them to have more efficient health care spending.
  • Renters who moved into public housing were more likely to experience a positive change in reported health status over the year (12 percent) compared with renters who did not move into public housing (8 percent).
  • Renters who moved into public housing or received a Section 8 voucher experienced major reductions in their housing burdens (13 and 24 percentage-point declines, respectively), compared with renters who did not receive such assistance (a 2 percentage-point decline).