Back to School, Back to Basics: How Affordable Housing Helps Children Thrive

Back to School

Children across the state of Ohio are heading back to school, but where are they laying their heads at night? The Ohio Department of Education found that over 20,000 public school students lacked stable housing at some point during the 2016-2017 school year. In a recent report on homelessness, OHFA found that over 30 percent of all clients seeking homelessness services were children under the age of 18. Furthermore, children in Ohio are more likely than adults to experience poverty; over 20 percent of all children are living in households below the federal poverty level.

How does this lack of stable, affordable housing impact children? For one, it can affect their ability even live to see their first birthday. In Ohio, seven out of every 1,000 children die by the age of one, which is one of the worst rates in the United States on infant mortality. This rate also has racial disparities; children born to Black mothers are nearly three times as likely to die by the age of one as children born to White mothers. Infants are more susceptible to high mortality rates if they experience low-quality or unstable housing.

Furthermore, older, poor-quality housing can also leave young children at risk of lead poisoning. Depending on the level of exposure, lead can cause organ damage, mental and behavioral impairment and even death, among other outcomes. In Ohio, over 400,000 households with young children live in housing old enough to contain lead paint.

A study in the Journal of Developmental Psychology showed that housing quality was the strongest predictor of a child’s well-being. Children living in poorer quality housing experienced more emotional and behavioral problems, and their problems only worsened over time. Children whose family lived in unstable housing had higher levels of anxiety, depression and behavioral issues. Furthermore, the study also found that families that lived in higher-cost housing had less resources to spend on other needs. Families that live in more affordable housing have more money to spend on food, health care and other enrichment activities that can help children thrive. Furthermore, some affordable housing developments can also help parents recover from substance abuse, which can improve relationships within families.

Back to Basics

So, how does all of this impact children during their time in school? Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that when families spend more than half of their income on housing, their children’s reading and math scores suffered. Children living in households that spend 30 percent of their income on housing costs had the best outcomes. Families that spent too much on housing had less money to spend on books, computers and other educational needs; likewise, families that didn’t spend enough on housing tended to live in distressed areas and inadequate housing that negatively impacted children.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition also found that low-income children living in stable, affordable housing do better in school and are more likely to attend college and earn more as adults.

These long-term benefits for children can be seen first-hand in developments across Ohio. One resident of an affordable housing development in Ohio credits the property with improving her relationship with her daughter. Another resident loves that her grandchildren can finally do something as simple as ride bikes outdoors safely. Trabue Crossing in Columbus, Ohio, gives residents access to services that can improve their children’s lives, including social services, homework help, daycare services and more. By providing affordable housing to families in Ohio, we ensure that children have happier and more successful lives, both at home and at school.

To learn more about housing needs for children in Ohio, visit our website.