Urban Institute report examines fallout from nation’s housing instability
Residential instability is often addressed only at the point of homelessness and treated as a family or household problem.
While homelessness is a serious issue, said Claudia Coulton, a Distinguished University Professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, “residential stability is fundamentally entangled with other serious societal concerns.”
Investing resources in stable housing for families will go a long way to relieve a multitude of related problems, concludes a new report Coulton co-wrote for the Urban Institute.
The report—“Family Residential Instability: What Can States and Localities Do?”—identifies a host of problems associated with unstable housing. Among them:
Mold can lead to childhood asthma, stemming from vacant housing during a foreclosure crisis;
Lead paint in older houses can poison children;
Unstable housing doesn’t allow children academic continuity, leading to poorer educational outcomes.
“Everything always leads back to residential instability,” she said. “The reason we undertook this project was that there are many disparate programs and policies that are all a part of this complicated puzzle.”
The report, co-authored with Brett Theodos and Sara McTarnaghan, of the Urban Institute, outlines steps that states and communities can take to minimize or mitigate consequences of residential instability in various areas, from affordable housing and education to law, health and human services.
“Too little policy attention has been devoted to the issue,” Coulton said. “States and localities have critical roles to play in creating integrated solutions to a complex challenge.”
According to the report, specific solutions should include:
Stepping up enforcement of housing codes;
Providing legal aid for those facing eviction;
Allowing continuity for children in schools;
Requiring lead-testing for rental units.
The report also recommends focusing federal resources on segments of the nation’s housing supply most in need and working to preserve and subsidize existing affordable housing.
The report also notes that residential instability more disproportionally affects lower-income households, which are often forced to move more frequently and have less control over where they wind up, Coulton said.
“They often end up in worse housing conditions and drained of financial resources,” according to the report, the result of roundtable meeting convened by the Urban Institute and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.