HUD Housing Assistance, But Not Vouchers, Linked To Improvement in Health Measurements Interview with:

Andrew Fenelon PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Health Services Administration University of Maryland School of Public Health. College Park, MD 20742

Dr. Andrew Fenelon

Andrew Fenelon PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Health Services Administration
University of Maryland School of Public Health.
College Park, MD 20742 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Despite the relatively large public investment in housing assistance at the federal level, there have been few nationwide analyses of the impacts of these programs on health and well-being. And as policymakers seek solutions to health disparities that incorporate some of the non-medical determinants of health (such as housing quality), our study can make an important contribution to both health and housing policy.

We use an innovative data linkage program which links individuals in a federal household health survey and administrative housing records from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). We examine the health impacts of three HUD housing programs: public housing, housing choice vouchers, and multifamily housing. We find that public housing and multifamily housing lead to an improvement in self-reported health status, and public housing leads to a reduction in serious psychological distress. We do not find health impacts associated with housing choice vouchers. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: I think the most important thing for readers to take from the article is that improvements in housing can lead to improvements in health, although this can depend on the type of housing. Although it is clear from previous research that federal housing assistance programs have favorable effects on housing quality and stability, our study adds an additional layer demonstrating benefits for health and well-being as well. In addition, one thing to recognize is that our analysis is one of the few studies on housing assistance that incorporates nationally-representative data, instead of data from a particular city or housing authority. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Although our study provides evidence that housing assistance leads to improved health and well-being, our data are unable to specify the pathway through which this occurs. Housing may lead to improved housing quality or stability, stronger social networks, improved economic circumstances, or more favorable neighborhood conditions. Future research should seek to identify which of these pathways can explain the health benefits associated with receiving housing assistance. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Nearly 10 million individuals live in HUD assisted housing, but many more individuals qualify for housing assistance (based on income requirements) and are not able to gain access due to limited housing supply. As a result, families wait an average of 2-3 years to enter HUD housing which can be a drain on resources and health. Given the observed health benefits of receiving assistance, a greater investment in housing assistance programs for low-income families can have many benefits for population health. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Andrew Fenelon, Patrick Mayne, Alan E. Simon, Lauren M. Rossen, Veronica Helms, Patricia Lloyd, Jon Sperling, and Barry L. Steffen. (2017). Housing Assistance Programs and Adult Health in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. e-View Ahead of Print.
doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303649

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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