3335 W St Germain St.
Suite 108
St. Cloud, MN 56301

(320) 656-8890

The Connection Between Housing and Mental Health

May 24, 2024

When someone receives a key to a safe, decent, and affordable home, that key doesn’t just open the front door. It also opens pathways to a variety of benefits associated with homeownership, including better mental health. 

Habitat for Humanity strives to provide our partner households with homes that encourage these benefits. But how is our mental health impacted when our homes are not safe, decent, and affordable?

 

According to Housing Matters, an extension of the Urban Institute focused on advancing affordable housing access, a lack of stable housing has been shown to exacerbate mental health symptoms. Living with the stress of not knowing where the money for rent is going to come from or how to afford both rent and food while working a minimum-wage full-time job is not easy. Prolonged stress can lead to higher risks of anxiety and depression, which can impact a person’s ability to successfully hold a stable job. In addition, spending upwards of 30% of income on rent means a person must make decisions between essentials (food, rent, bills, etc.) and things like therapy and medication. 

Housing assistance has been shown to alleviate some of the stress associated with unstable housing through various studies. One study conducted in New Haven, Connecticut found that people who received rental assistance reported less psychological distress than individuals who didn’t receive assistance.  

 

One can also look at this in reverse. Not only can housing impact a person’s mental health, but mental health can also impact access to housing. People with more severe and persistent mental health disorders face barriers to obtaining housing. The Fair Housing Act protects Americans with mental disabilities from being discriminated against when it comes to housing, but in 2022, more than half of the filed reports were complaints of discrimination based on disability. The National Fair Housing Alliance estimates that millions more instances go unreported. 

 

We’ve discussed the problem, but what about the solution? 

The National League of Cities (NLC), an organization focusing on improving cities across the country, suggests a few solutions. The first is proactive rental inspections to identify environmental hazards inside the home, such as lead paint, which can increase a child’s risk of developing behavioral problems. In support of this, NLC also suggests increasing housing rehabilitation assistance programs, which will provide monetary support for needed repairs. As always, another solution is increasing the number of safe, decent, and affordable houses available to low-income households. 

In addition, expanding federal and state rental assistance programs would offer additional opportunities, as these programs have been shown to improve recipients’ mental health. According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, only 25% of eligible households actually receive rental assistance.  

 

Sources: 

“How Does Housing Stability Affect Mental Health?” The Urban Institute, https://housingmatters.urban.org/articles/how-does-housing-stability-affect-mental-health. 

“Does rental assistance improve mental health? Insights from a longitudinal cohort study,” Social Science & Medicine, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114100. 

“New Report Reveals Record Number of Housing Discrimination Complaints,” National Fair Housing Alliance, https://nationalfairhousing.org/new-report-reveals-record-number-of-housing-discrimination-complaints/. 

“Exploring the Connection Between Healthy Housing & Mental Health,” NLC, https://www.nlc.org/article/2023/05/31/exploring-the-connection-between-healthy-housing-mental-health/. 

“America’s Rental Housing,” Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/americas-rental-housing-2024. 

 

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3335 W St Germain St.
Suite 108
St. Cloud, MN 56301

(320) 656-8890

©2023 by Central MN Habitat for Humanity.