In a report published in September 2021, the Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation (PAHRC) examines how public housing authorities (PHAs) and affordable rental housing providers are assisting people with mental and physical health challenges, and how the number of low-income households living with an individual facing one of these challenges has increased over the past few years. PAHRC estimates show that 2.85 million people with disabilities live in publicly supported rental housing, and in 2020, nearly one-third of all publicly supported households included a person with a disability.
The report states that “while access to an affordable home can positively impact health outcome, many families that seek housing assistance are often in poorer health than their unassisted peers. Adults living in publicly supported homes earning below 150% of the poverty line report higher rates of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, COPD, asthma, anxiety disorders, depression, and a history of stroke and cancer compared to their unassisted peers.”
In a 2018 joint CLPHA and PAHRC survey on PHA health initiatives and partnerships, half of housing authorities that responded had implemented health-related initiatives through community-based, private, and nonprofit partnerships. The most common health initiatives among PHAs targeted preventative health (74%), followed by medical health conditions (63%), and substance use disorders (60%). Those PHAs and affordable housing providers engaged in health-related initiatives recommend that organizations should begin by defining internal priorities regarding resident health, securing internal buy-in and resources, prioritizing steps to implement a strategic health plan, and cultivating new partners.
For more resources related to how to start or grow health initiatives, access the following links for tips and examples: PAHRC and CLPHA’s Strategies, Start, Sustain: The Evaluation of PHA Health Report, LeadingAge’s Housing and Health Care Toolkit, and HUD’s COVID-19 Vaccinations and Testing Toolkit.