By Melissa Winkler, Community Relations Manager, Society of St. Vincent de Paul Georgia
Recent research from places like the Center for Housing Policy shows the deep correlation between quality affordable housing and short and long-term health and economic benefits. Affordable housing allows families and individuals to direct more money toward things like food, transportation, and savings. This redirection of scarce resources is particularly important for low-income individuals and families who already struggle to make ends meet. Additionally, quality housing lowers the occurrence of health problems related to exposure to lead paint, mold, and other hazards and reduces the effects of chronic illness- both physical and mental. Another positive effect of accessible housing is the creation of supportive community networks and neighborhoods. When residents feel more stable in their homes, they gain access to important community support and reduced psychological stress from living in safer neighborhoods.
These reasons, and many others, indicate a very direct relationship between housing access, public health, and quality of life. Housing is also still very segregated, and lack of access to quality housing predominantly impacts black and Hispanic families. The reasons for housing segregation are many and include greater obstacles to obtaining a mortgage and disproportionate building of public housing options. Rather than creating affordable housing units in integrated communities, thereby giving low-income and working class families access to better education, grocery stores, transportation options, and public safety, many public housing funds are focused in segregated, predominantly low-income areas.
Quality housing is an essential resource for moving low-income families out of poverty, for providing public health benefits, and for developing equitable neighborhoods and community structures. Attention must be paid to ensuring that everyone has access to this resource. We must direct funds to build affordable properties in diverse, integrated neighborhoods. We must also be welcoming to economically diverse neighbors. This increased accessibility will certainly result in better public health outcomes and higher rates of social and economic mobility.