Exploring the impact of housing on wellbeing

Estimated read time 11 min read

The importance of housing as a social driver of health cannot be overstated, yet the intricate pathways connecting housing conditions to health outcomes remain inadequately understood. This knowledge gap is particularly impactful for low-income families who face unique challenges in establishing a sense of home.

My experience as a pediatrician at WakeMed has shown me firsthand how critical stable, and quality housing is to the health and well-being of children and their families. Over the years, I have encountered numerous cases where substandard housing has exacerbated health conditions, from respiratory issues due to mold to stress-related ailments stemming from insecure housing. These observations fueled my commitment to developing “Beyond Our Walls,” WakeMed’s health equity curriculum, which explores how issues like housing are pivotal factors in public health.

Our work has revealed that property quality and even neighborhood location result from historical local and federal policies that segregated and marginalized communities with intention and continue to impact the health and well-being of minoritized communities today significantly. That is why we must address the physical, psychosocial, and historical aspects of housing in public health interventions.

In Wake County, North Carolina, where I practice, one-quarter of residents are housing cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than one-third of household income on housing. Approximately 56,000 working families who make less than $39,000 a year in Wake County are currently unable to find affordable housing.

The Raleigh Area Land Trust (RALT) is working to serve as a solution for needy families by mitigating housing instability and promoting health equity. As a community land trust, RALT ensures place-based, permanent housing affordability. The non-profit allows the community to retain ownership of the land. At the same time, the resident purchases the home at an affordable rate, providing a stable foundation that fosters health and economic security.

As a board member of RALT, I am proud that we can provide an innovative path to homeownership. In addition to affordability, community land trusts prioritize community engagement and stewardship. Through resident-led governance structures, RALT ensures that community members have a voice in decision-making processes related to land use and development. This collaborative approach fosters a sense of ownership and pride among residents, leading to vibrant and resilient neighborhoods.

Moreover, community land trusts are crucial in preserving housing affordability amidst rapidly changing real estate markets. By removing land from the speculative market, RALT prevents gentrification and displacement, preserving the socioeconomic diversity of neighborhoods and promoting inclusive growth. This proactive approach to housing development creates thriving communities where residents of all backgrounds can access safe, stable, and affordable housing options.

As we look to the future, expanding community land trusts holds tremendous potential for addressing systemic inequities in housing and promoting health and well-being for all. By advocating for supportive policies and increasing investment in community-led housing solutions, we can create a more equitable and sustainable housing landscape where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of HousingWire’s editorial department and its owners.

To contact the editor responsible for this piece: [email protected]

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