Families Will Benefit from Expanding the Evidence Base on Supportive Housing

How Housing Matters

Housing instability among families and children can be detrimental to child welfarehealtheconomic, and other outcomes. Policymakers and service providers in these fields should consider weaving housing into their approaches. Treating instability at its roots can relieve the trade-offs and stress that emerge when no decent housing is affordable. Evidence indicates that affordable housing can improve a range of outcomes for families and—in combination with short-term or long-term services—help providers tackle complex challenges head-on.

The spectrum of affordable, service-enriched, and supportive housing

When health and human service organizations look toward housing to improve family outcomes, the most effective intervention can range from a simple housing subsidy to permanent supportive housing depending on the program goals and families’ needs.

  1. Housing subsidy. A housing subsidy, even without supports, can improve stability, reduce the risk of homelessness, and connect families with better-quality living environments. Families without stable housing face severe rent burdens that crowd out other necessities and can lead to eviction, displacement, or homelessness. Research suggests that families can achieve broad benefits in the short term and the long term from affordability alone.
  2. Service-enriched housing. Many affordable housing providers offer optional services as an amenity to help families meet their immediate needs and achieve long-term success. A service coordinator may help families find area programs and resources, or the development may have on-site health care access, child care, after-school programs, financial education, workforce development, and more.
  3. Permanent supportive housing for families. Permanent supportive housing for families combines affordable housing with optional but assertive services that focus on keeping vulnerable families stable and housed. This strategy, which is often designed for chronically homeless people, can also benefit families. Although supportive housing programs vary, they share three core principles: they aim to keep tenants housed, the services often involve a range of providers (including physical and mental health, employment, benefits, and others), and tenants do not risk eviction if they refuse services, but providers are persistent in their offers to help.

Knowing the range of housing-based interventions that exist can help social service organizations launch successful partnerships with housing providers that tailor resources and services to fit the level of supports a particular population may need. Likewise, housing organizations can communicate to prospective partners about the spectrum of interventions to create more clarity about the fundamental benefits of different housing approaches.

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