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The Rent Relief Act of 2023

There is no greater predictor of health than where you live. 

Research from Children’s HealthWatch conducted on the frontlines of health care consistently shows that children and their families need access to safe, stable, and affordable homes throughout their lifetime in order to thrive

However, across the country, the combination of increasing housing costs and inadequate supply of affordable housing means that millions of families are unable to afford a stable home. Too often and too easily, they fall behind on rent and become unstably housed or homeless. 

Our research shows that young children in families that have been behind on rent within the last year are more likely to have developmental delays, be in poor health, and be hospitalized compared to young children whose families are stably housed. Their mothers have a much higher likelihood of experiencing symptoms of depression and being in poor health, and the family is at greater risk of struggling to afford other basic needs. 

Early childhood is a critical window of brain and body development. A stable home early in life is the foundation for good health and a child’s success.  

Given this, we know that housing instability has hindered the health, educational achievement, and upward mobility of children and families from across the U.S., contributing to cycles of poverty and poor health outcomes – disproportionately among children of color.  

This month, I was proud to stand with Congressmen Danny Davis (D-IL), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Scott Peters (D-CA), and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) in Washington D.C. as they introduced the Rent Relief Act of 2023 – bold and innovative legislation to bridge the growing gap between a family’s income and housing costs. 

Alongside the Congressmen and advocates from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, ZERO TO THREE, and Church World Service, I spoke about the transformational impact this bill would have on the health and well-being of families and children. 

Building on the success of the advance Child Tax Credit, the Rent Relief Act would create a refundable monthly tax credit to alleviate financial burdens for cost-burdened renters, defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as households paying more than 30% of income on rent and housing costs. This would support low- and moderate-income families to meet their children’s basic needs without falling behind on rent or making excruciating decisions between paying rent and putting food on the table; a safe place to stay, or necessary medical care and prescriptions. 

Our pediatricians and researchers often tell us that the prescription they want to write their patients is a healthy home. The Rent Relief Act is that prescription. It is evidence-based, and an investment that pays dividends in the form of healthier, more resilient communities. 

Children’s HealthWatch is grateful to the bill sponsors for recognizing the urgency and transformative impact that stable housing can have on the lives of the families we serve through the introduction of this bill. As members of Opportunity Starts at Home, we are invigorated to stand alongside a movement of strong and diverse stakeholders who strive to pass federal housing policies that expand resources, correct long-standing structural and racial inequities, and ensure families with the lowest incomes can afford a good home. 

Together, let us build a brighter, healthier future for every child, one where stable housing is not a luxury but a fundamental right.