Study: Can High Rents Cause Health Problems?

April 4, 2019

High rents don’t just hurt Americans’ pocketbooks—they could be affecting people’s health too. A new study shows that more than half of renters say they delayed health care because they couldn’t afford it. Medical professionals surveyed said they’ve dealt with patients who have expressed concerns and anxiety about affordable housing, according to the survey of 1,000 U.S. renters commissioned by Enterprise Community Partners Inc., a national affordable housing nonprofit.

Higher rent costs are forcing some low-income renters to divert money that could pay for health care to cover monthly housing costs instead, the study finds. Forty-five percent of “severely rent-burdened” respondents (those who spend half or more of their monthly income on housing) said they weren’t able to follow a medical treatment plan because they couldn’t afford it; 31 percent said they delayed a routine check-up due to a lack of funds.

“Our health is inextricably linked to our home—whether it’s poorly designed or maintained housing, stress from having to move frequently, or illness that develops or goes untreated because of skipping care and treatment to make rent,” says Brian Rahmer, Enterprise’s vice president of health and housing.

A study last year by the American Association of Pediatrics said that housing instability could have widespread health implications. They urged medical professionals to start screening children and caregivers for housing instability, including those who are behind on rent, multiple moves, or homelessness.

Some housing groups and lawmakers are starting to explore potential solutions and programs aimed at improving the health-housing connection of consumers. For example, Medicaid programs in Oregon, New York, and Massachusetts have partnered with local and regional health care systems to invest in housing services, reports. Some large health care systems have invested in community benefit funds to support new affordable housing developments.

Why High Rents Are a Health Care Problem,” (April 3, 2019) and “Survey: When Housing Costs Undermine Health and Peace of Mind,” Enterprise Community Partners Inc. (April 3, 2019)