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RWJF Report Supports Consensus of HAP Collaborative: Housing Is Key to Health

July 05, 2019

Safe, affordable housing should be a top health priority for communities across the U.S., according to the 2019 Annual Message from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The focus of RWJF’s report aligns with the consensus of Pennsylvania stakeholders, convened by HAP this spring, who are working to address housing challenges as important drivers of poor health in the commonwealth.

The report provides an overview of the many ways housing affects health—from the quality of local schools and the availability of jobs, to nutritious foods and green spaces. Households who are “housing-cost burdened”—meaning that they spend more than 30 percent of their income on mortgages or rent—have less money for transportation to work and school, medical care, utilities, and food.

According to RWJF, housing challenges are taking an increasing toll on U.S. households and families. For example:

  •     38.1 million (about 30%) of households are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing
  •     More than half of all households pay more than half of their annual income to housing
  •     About 6,300 people are evicted from their homes daily
  •     The number of extremely poor neighborhood increased more than 45 percent from 2010 to 2014

According to the RWJF’s 2019 County Health Rankings, severe housing-cost burden is, on average, highest in large urban metro counties. RWJF’s City Health Dashboard shows that many who live in Pennsylvania’s cities struggle with housing costs. The percentage of housing-cost burdened households is:

  •     38.8 percent in Philadelphia
  •     35.1 percent in Erie
  •     33.2 percent in Pittsburgh

Housing in Pennsylvania

HAP’s interactive population health dashboard shows county rates of housing insecurity in aggregate as well as for renters and homeowners and ranks counties from best (least insecure) to worst (most insecure).

According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, Pennsylvania had an estimated 13,512 people experiencing homelessness on any given day as of January 2018. This total includes:

  •     1,760 family households
  •     684 unaccompanied young adults aged 18–24
  •     1,408  chronically homelessness people

Pennsylvania public school data from the 2016–2017 school year shows that an estimated 23,164 public students experienced homelessness during the year. 

About HAP’s Collaborative

Approved by HAP’s Board of Directors and led by a steering committee of association members, HAP’s collaborative for addressing social determinants of health is developing measures and strategies that focus heavily on housing as well as food insecurity. The collaborative includes leaders on the front lines of initiatives aimed at addressing the economic and social conditions that impact health. 

This work aligns with growing state and national recognition that a collaborative approach is crucial to informing decisions about transportation, education, and housing and their impact on health and wellness. 

HAP will continue to report on collaborative efforts to share best practices and leverage resources to address social determinants of health. We urge hospitals, health systems, and other stakeholders to share their work with us, and educate elected officials about the importance of these efforts.

For information about the HAP collaborative, contact Rob Shipp, HAP’s vice president, quality and population health.

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