Policy Brief: Prescription for a New Neighborhood? Housing Vouchers as a Public Health Intervention

Kami Kruckenberg and Phil Tegeler, Poverty & Race Research Action Council, July 2010, available here

“The growing public health documentation of the health risks associated with high poverty, racially isolated neighborhoods leads some housing and public health advocates to an inescapable conclusion: why can’t we help at least some of these families voluntarily move to safer and healthier locations - perhaps prioritizing families with children most vulnerable to specific health risks?

 

Although the answer may seem obvious, there is no current housing program that is designed to achieve this kind of targeted ‘health mobility.’  The Housing Choice Voucher Program (commonly known as ‘Section 8’) is the closest program available, and yet it is vastly oversubscribed and has currently has no mechanism for prioritizing public health needs, or favoring placement of families in low poverty, healthier neighborhoods.  Indeed, many of the program’s features pull in the other direction.  Some heavy lifting will be needed from the public health community, on both a policy research and advocacy level, to bring a vision of ‘health mobility’ to fruition.

 

This report is an assessment of what public health, clinical, legal, and programmatic issues need to be addressed as we move closer to our vision of giving children with chronic health problems a ‘prescription for a new neighborhood.’”

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