Publication Date: 
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Problem: The shortage of adequate, affordable housing is a major public health problem, which draws family resources away from other health expenditures, such as nutritious food and healthcare, and exposes children and others to lead and other pathogens. CDC and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Healthy housing reference manual. The scarcity of affordable housing also creates pockets of concentrated poverty, which deleteriously affects the health of children and their families. The Urban Institute. Research on Record: Housing.

The Law: One way that governments have attempted to address the shortage of affordably priced housing is through programs that subsidize housing costs. Tenant-based rental assistance programs subsidize the cost of housing for low-income households in the private housing market. One of the more prominent examples is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 program, which is administered by state and local governments. This program is authorized by 42 U.S.C. 1437(f) and regulated by 24 C.F.R. 982. Three other well known examples are the Housing Allowance Experiment, the Gautreaux program, and the Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing program.

The Evidence: Anderson et al. reviewed 12 studies that assessed the effectiveness of tenant-based rental assistance programs as a public health intervention aimed at improving household safety and reducing exposure to crime. Anderson LM, et al. Providing affordable family housing and reducing residential segregation by income: a systematic review. Am J Prev Med. 2003;24(3S):S47-67. The 12 studies focused specifically on the four federal housing efforts mentioned above. The review found tenant-based rental assistance to be effective in increasing household safety and reducing exposure to crime. According to the reviewers, the underlying studies also provide evidence that these programs improve housing quality, reduce behavioral problems among children at home and in school, and improve the physical and psychological health of parental figures.

The Bottom Line: In the judgment of a Community Guide expert panel, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that tenant-based rental assistance programs (or affordable housing rental vouchers programs) are effective public health interventions aimed at addressing the shortage of affordable housing and its associated risks to health.

Impact: Effective