Panel Paper: The Impact of Affordable Housing on the Well-Being of Low-Income Children and Caregivers: First Findings from an Experimental Study in New York City

Saturday, November 10, 2018
8212 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Elyzabeth Gaumer, New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development

While there is a substantial amount of scientific evidence looking at public housing and other forms of demand-side rental assistance, such as vouchers, less is known about the low-income working population that affordable housing programs, such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, serve and how they differ from the lowest income households most frequently studied. NYC represents a unique venue for quantifying the impact of these large-scale public investments, as NYC has helped to produce or rehabilitate more than 450,000 units of housing since 1980 and is currently dedicated through the Housing New York plan to build or preserve an additional 300,000 units of affordable housing. These investments substantially outnumber the current supply of public housing and vouchers in many municipalities.

The low-income, working population served by these affordable housing programs may be at greater risk than a poverty population because they do not qualify for most subsidies, yet frequently struggle to make ends meet, particularly in high cost housing markets. Moreover, affordable housing serves a variety of household compositions, not only families with school-age children. Yet both theory and evidence from other research suggest that children and caregivers may benefit disproportionately from moves to opportunity neighborhoods. Receipt of subsidized housing may help to improve the health and well-being of these households through multiple pathways, including lower housing costs that enable a family to invest scarce resources, particularly in children’s education and enrichment; improved housing quality that reduces exposure to substandard conditions that may impair physical health of developing children and lead to increased school absence; and improved access to resource-rich neighborhoods that provide opportunities for social engagement and higher quality local institutions and amenities, including better schools.

The New York City Housing and Neighborhood Study (NYC-HANS) is the first study of its kind to examine low-income, working households and the possible effects of newer forms of supply-side assistance. NYC-HANS is a randomized control trial that evaluates the impact of moving to newly-constructed affordable housing on the well-being of this population in NYC. 3,000 households were randomly assigned to either receive an affordable housing unit at one of fourteen developments located in five neighborhoods (n=~1,500) or remain in private market housing without assistance (n=~1,500). Of these, just under half applied to live with one or more co-resident child. In-person follow-up interviews were conducted three to five years after intervention to assess differences across a wide array of outcomes.

This paper focuses on these families and will evaluate whether subsidized housing leads to improvements in their housing and neighborhood quality, financial stability, neighborhood safety, social context, and health. We also evaluate child and family outcomes, including analyzing school records, including attendance, standardized test scores, and retention and grade advancement. These findings offer important evidence of the impact of affordable housing on children and caregivers and show the potential for affordable housing programs to improve the well-being of this vulnerable population and allow us to discuss implications for how housing policy can best support child and family well-being.