NCHH Receives MacArthur Foundation Grant to Study Health Care Savings from Healthy Housing


MacArthur Awards $2.8 Million to Support Research on How Housing Matters

MacArthur Foundation today announced six grants totaling $2.8 million for research to explore the ways housing may affect social, health, and economic outcomes of children, families, and communities. Recipients will utilize and connect existing data sets – such as Medicaid, utility, and school data – to reveal insights into the effectiveness of housing policies and related public programs.

With these new grants, MacArthur has supported 42 studies over five years with important implications for a new generation of housing policies.  The new research will inform timely policy discussions on topics ranging from how the housing market boom and bust is affecting public finances and cities’ ability to promote safe, stable neighborhoods, to the effectiveness of federal mortgage payment assistance to families experiencing unemployment. Other projects will examine residential energy usage in government-assisted housing, explore whether healthy housing improvements can reduce Medicaid expenditures, and identify how housing experiences in early childhood affect school readiness and early literacy.

Selected through a competitive process from a pool of more than 300 proposals, the six grants complete the Foundation's five-year, $25 million research investment in the How Housing Matters to Families and Communities initiative. Included in this investment is support for a research network conducting a long-term, multi-city, mixed-methods study led by an interdisciplinary group of scholars.

"MacArthur-supported How Housing Matters research has already revealed that stable, quality housing matters in ways critical for children's emotional and physical development, improves school performance, and diminishes psychological stress,” said Julia Stasch, MacArthur’s Vice President for U.S. Programs. “Future research findings will arm policymakers and practitioners with evidence of what works and what does not, which is vital to drive innovation and more effectively target scarce resources to meet the housing, social, and economic needs of families and communities.”


National Center for Healthy Housing
Housing as a Vaccine: Health Care Savings from Healthy Affordable Housing
Award: $650,000 over three years
Principal Investigators: David Jacobs, Dean Smith

Background: Low-income people and communities across the United States suffer disproportionately from the negative health effects of poorly constructed, unsafe and substandard housing. A number of research studies have documented these negative effects, which include asthma and other respiratory illnesses, cardiovascular health problems, increased stress, and adverse overall physical and mental health status. In addition to affecting the quality of life for low-income people, these health problems also place a significant burden on the health care system.

The cost of creating healthy housing is borne by the housing industry, yet the benefits accrue to the health care industry through prevented or reduced illness and injury. To date, the health care benefits of healthy housing have not been quantified, limiting the ability of the housing sector to make a compelling business case for health care investment in housing. This study will monetize the value of integrating healthy housing improvements into the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing.

Design: This cost-benefit study is nested in the larger, separately funded Enterprise Community Partners study, a prospective controlled trial of healthy housing improvements being conducted in three cities (New York City, Cleveland, and San Francisco). The Enterprise study examines asthma- and other health-related outcomes in three waves, collects data on the cost of implementing a standard set of healthy housing improvements, and tracks indoor and outdoor environmental data. It is funded by The JPB Foundation with additional grant support from the Kresge and Wells Fargo Foundations. Funding from the MacArthur Foundation enables documentation of the impact of the participant’s health care utilization on Medicaid costs using standard cost benefit analytical methods.

Outcomes: If, by demonstrating that reductions in government spending on health care can be achieved through housing improvements, the study may provide important evidence to support investments in “housing as a vaccine.” Research findings will have policy implications for how both voluntary guidelines and regulations covering building, housing, energy and health codes and laws are developed.

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