A Different Type of Innovation in Boston: Housing Stability for Children’s Health
Written by Mira Kahn and Lucy Ellis on April 21, 2017
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An innovative new initiative in Boston is bringing together housing and health care organizations in Greater Boston to implement programs that stabilize children in their housing.
When you think of Boston what comes to mind? You may be thinking of American history, world class hospitals, top research institutions and winning sports teams. However, there is another side to Greater Boston, one where more than half of households are rent burdened (paying 30 percent or more of their income on rent) and income inequality is rising – in fact, a 2016 Brookings Institute report ranked Boston as #1 among cities with the highest income inequality nationally. While these statistics are daunting, Boston’s resources and leadership provide a prime opportunity for cross-sector innovation.
Over the last decade, researchers, many funded through the MacArthur Foundation’s How Housing Matters initiative have found that instability in housing, driven in large part by unaffordable rents, has a profoundly negative impact on a child’s mental, behavioral, and physical health. This research shows that children in families facing housing instability (inability to pay mortgage, rent, or utility bills) are more likely to postpone medical care, postpone medications, and have more emergency department visits than those in stable housing. The result is higher health care costs and increased burdens on homeless systems and providers.
Mira Kahn and Lucy Ellis are program associates at the Boston Foundation in the Health and Wellness and Neighborhoods and Housing strategies respectively. The Boston Foundation is the community foundation for Greater Boston serving as a grantmaker, a major civic leader, a think tank, and an advocacy organization.