For Latino Renters, Nearby Foreclosure and Homeownership Rates Influence Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

For Latino Renters, Nearby Foreclosure and Homeownership Rates Influence Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Earle C. Chambers, David B. Hanna, Simin Hua, Dustin T. Duncan, Marlene Camacho-Rivera, Shannon N. Zenk, Jessica L. McCurley, Krista Perreira, Marc D. Gellman and Linda C. Gallo
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Past and present racial residential segregation made Hispanic/Latino and Black households disproportionately vulnerable to predatory lending practices and subsequent mortgage foreclosure after the 2008 housing crisis. This study explores whether the housing crisis also exacerbated cardiovascular health risk factors in Hispanic/Latino populations and fills a notable gap in housing and health research by investigating the nuanced associations between health, foreclosure rates, and homeownership rates. Uniquely, this study includes a large sample of the US’s largest racial and ethnic minority, the Hispanic/Latino population, and spans four large US cities, making its findings more reliably generalizable.

To build the sample, the authors used data from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, a cohort study of 16,415 self-identified Hispanic/Latino people ages 18–74 in four US metropolitan areas (Chicago, Illinois; Miami, Florida; Bronx, New York; and San Diego, California). The sample of 13,856 people excluded residents occupying homes without paying rent and people with preexisting cardiovascular disease. Limiting the sample to people without prior cardiovascular disease means that correlations will only show new cardiovascular disease cases—suggesting the possibility of neighborhood effects on health. Importantly, this study distinguished between renters and homeowners to analyze the potential differences between their outcomes. The researchers attributed a mortgage foreclosure risk value to each participant based on their residential census tract. The authors analyzed prevalence ratios, or the proportion of people with the health outcome in a given population, for three Center for Disease Control and Prevention key risk factors for heart disease—hypertension, high cholesterol, and smoking.

Key findings

  • The analysis shows that although there was a significant association of area foreclosure risk with hypertension and hypocholesteremia among renters, this association was not found for homeowners. This indicates that renters are particularly vulnerable to negative health effects in high-risk foreclosure areas.
  • Homeowners’ lack of association suggests that residents who own their houses may be better positioned to weather housing crises and access neighborhood well-being resources.
  • Areas with high risk of mortgage foreclosure do not always align with areas of high poverty.
  • This study is consistent with existing research that claims renters are three times more likely to be current cigarette smokers than homeowners. In this study, renting may indicate less resident stability, thus increasing vulnerability for unhealthy behaviors.

Policy implications

  • Neighborhood foreclosure risk is a useful measure of potential housing insecurity, which can impact both renters and homeowners.
  • This study affirms that home mortgage foreclosures can negatively affect community health. Public health practitioners should deepen engagement with housing policy to address social and economic determinants of health.
  • Programs that provide a pathway to stable housing for both homeowners and renters, like Making Home Affordable, may help strengthen local cardiovascular disease–prevention campaigns.
  • Policymakers could consider two strategies to stabilize housing and mitigate associated adverse health outcomes for renters: 1) legislation that provides rental relief for tenants that pay more than 30 percent of their gross income on rent and utilities and 2) legal representation in housing court for low-income residents.

Note: The Housing Matters editorial team decided to use the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” to refer to people of Latin American origin, in alignment with the terminology used by the authors of the study.

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