Housing Is Health: A Renewed Call for Federal Investments in Affordable Housing for Families With Children

Originally published on Opportunity Starts at Home.

On June 30, partners of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign published a new peer-reviewed commentary inAcademic Pediatrics that calls on pediatricians to advocate for more robust and equitable affordable housing investments.  Authored by experts at the National Low Income Housing Coalition and Children’s HealthWatch, the commentary highlights the decades of research demonstrating the importance of a safe, stable, affordable home as a foundation for health beginning in the prenatal period and extending over the lifespan.  Unfortunately, in the United States today, millions of children face housing circumstances that harm their health and, as a result, increase unnecessary health care utilization.  Families with extremely low incomes are disproportionately impacted by adverse housing circumstances, further exacerbating health disparities.  A legacy of discriminatory housing policies and practices target Black and Latinx families resulting in further health disparities across racial identities. The recent COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic shocks have further intensified housing instability and put into stark relief that our collective health depends on each of us having access to a stable, affordable, quality home.

In the commentary, the authors examine four domains of housing that are critical for positive child health outcomes – quality, stability, affordability, and neighborhoods – as well as specific housing policies and practices that should be employed to ensure all children live in homes that promote healthy growth and development.  In particular, the authors recommend key housing investments, such as expanding Housing Choice Vouchers and the National Housing Trust Fund, as well as creating a new permanent program that would offer short-term assistance to keep people stably housed during an unexpected economic crisis.  Because pediatricians see first-hand the connections between housing and health, they are uniquely positioned to advocate for these housing policy solutions through their professional associations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and through their individual institutions.  Pediatricians can also join cross-sector advocacy coalitions like Opportunity Starts at Home, as well as directly contacting elected officials to explain why stable, affordable housing is essential to child health.


“As a pediatrician, I know my patients need safe, affordable, stable homes to thrive. The federal government is the only entity that can make housing for health available for everyone. We need strong federal housing policies that ensure my patients and their families are able to achieve optimal health.” – Megan SandelPediatrician at Boston Medical Center and Co-Lead Principal Investigator for Children’s HealthWatch

“It has never been clearer that housing is healthcare.  Ensuring that people with the lowest incomes are stably housed, during and long after the pandemic, is both a moral imperative and a public health necessity.  It makes sense that leaders from both the housing and healthcare sectors join forces to end housing instability and homelessness, once and for all.” – Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“To promote health equity, we need to work across sectors to improve housing stability, affordability, quality, and location.  We wrote this paper to demonstrate that our fates are inextricably linked: If housing advocates are successful in achieving their goals, then pediatricians are more likely to be successful in achieving theirs; and housing advocates are more likely to be successful when pediatricians stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in advocating for systemic policy solutions.” – Mike Koprowski, National Director of the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign.

“To remedy health disparities, we need partnerships between health care professionals and affordable housing advocacy groups.  This paper compiles substantial research demonstrating the indisputable link between access to safe, stable, affordable housing and good health across a lifespan.  These partnerships will further advance the fact that housing is a health equity issue.” – Chantelle Wilkinson, Campaign Coordinator of the Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign

“The pandemic and subsequent economic crisis created by COVID-19 have highlighted the ways in which structural racism and poverty exacerbate health inequities. We know that housing plays an important role in promoting health and reducing these health disparities. Now is the time for bold policy solutions that address underlying drivers of health and ensure all children live in homes where they can thrive.” – Allison Bovell-Ammon, Director of Policy Strategy for Children’s HealthWatch