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Studies Find Short-Term Financial Assistance Promotes Housing Stability, Reduces Cost
Since its inception, the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign has urged Congress to create a “National Housing Stabilization Fund” to provide short-term financial assistance and stability services to help poor households overcome an economic shock that threatens their housing stability.
Most families in poverty who rent spend at least half of their incomes on housing, leaving virtually no margin for an unexpected expense. Broken-down cars, unreimbursed medical bills, or temporary declines of income can quickly send vulnerable households down the spiral of housing instability, eviction, and even homelessness. The primary purpose of a Stabilization Fund would be to cover the temporary gaps between income and rental costs during a financial crisis. The secondary purpose would be to provide stability services, such as counselors and case management. When combined, such short-term housing assistance and support services can significantly reduce evictions and homelessness. Some states and localities have these crisis assistance programs, but the need far exceeds the program resources available.
Although there is still more to learn about how to deliver emergency assistance most effectively at a national scale, families and individuals who have participated in similar types of programs often have permanent housing by the end of the program. Studies also find that providing a small amount of preventative, short-term assistance is more cost-effective than the long-term social and economic consequences of housing instability, eviction, and homelessness.
A review of research related to such programs:


  • A review of a recession-era program and its short-term assistance and prevention services components found 71.6% of participants who were either imminently losing their housing or unstably housed upon entry into the program exited to stable housing.


  • A review of the Supportive Services for Veteran Families’ (SSVF) prevention program, which provides short-term financial assistance and other supports to veterans at risk of homelessness, found 91% of participants maintained their housing or exited to permanent housing.


  • A rigorous evaluation of New York City’s Homebase Community Prevention program, which includes short-term assistance and services, found that families at-risk of homelessness who participated in the program spent 22 fewer nights in the shelter system. These families were also less likely to spend at least one night in shelters during the 27-month follow-up period.


  • Researchers examined the effectiveness of temporary financial assistance by using data from the Homelessness Prevention Call Center (HPCC) in Chicago, which processes about 75,000 calls annually. Chicago residents at-risk of becoming homeless would call 311 to request temporary financial assistance for rent, security deposits, or utility bills.  The researchers compared households that called when funds were available with those who called when funds were not available. They found that those calling when funding was available were 76% less likely to enter a homeless shelter. The researchers also presented evidence that the program’s cost is lower than the homelessness-related costs the program likely averted, making the program a cost-effective solution.
The campaign’s Legislative Working Group has been meeting regularly with Democratic and Republican lawmakers in both the House and Senate to advance this policy concept into legislation during the 116th Congress.


Housing is Safety: New Blog and Podcast Episode
In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the campaign released a new podcast episode on the intersections of affordable housing and domestic violence with two experts from the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV): Monica McLaughlin, director of public policy, and Debbie Fox, senior housing policy and practice specialist. The campaign also published a companion blog written by NNEDV, “Housing is Safety.”  NNEDV is a member of the campaign’s multi-sector Opportunity Roundtable.
Listen to Podcast Episode
Read NNEDV’s Blog

Black-White SAT Score Gap is Higher in More Segregated Cities
Housing segregation is often cited as a root cause for educational achievement disparities between white and black students.  A study by David Card and Jesse Rothstein, “Racial Segregation and the Black-White Test Score Gap,” attempts to quantify the impacts of neighborhood segregation on SAT scores. Their conclusion is that the impact is significant.
The SAT is a standardized test used for college admissions across the country.  Using large microdata samples across different metropolitan areas for 1998-2001 test cohorts, the authors find strong evidence that the black-white SAT score gap is significantly elevated in more segregated cities.  After controlling for family background and a variety of other factors, the authors find that shifting from a completely segregated city to a completely integrated city would close about one-quarter of the black-white SAT score gap.
“The racial gap in student achievement is a pervasive and divisive feature of American life,” the study’s authors write.  “There is a robust and quantitatively important relationship between Black relative test scores and the degree of segregation in different metropolitan areas. Our estimates suggest that the move from a highly segregated city to an integrated city is associated with a 45-point narrowing of the Black-White SAT gap – about one-quarter of the raw differential.  We consistently find that neighborhood segregation exerts a strong negative effect on relative test scores.”
The study provides compelling and quantifiable evidence that education advocates must also be housing advocates.  The campaign provides a platform for organizations from the education sector to join the housing movement along with many other multi-sector partners.  
Read the Full Study
Housing & Education Fact Sheet

Campaign Partner UnidosUS Releases New Report on Latino Rental Affordability
UnidosUS published a new report on Latino rental affordability, “Calling It Home.”  UnidosUS, formerly National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Latino nonprofit advocacy and services organization, is a Steering Committee member of the campaign.  
The report features the findings of 25 in-depth interviews with Latino renter households in New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver, Orlando, and Las Vegas.  The interviews revealed that the households were forced to cut back on other basic expenses to afford rental housing, that affordability was a key reason people had chosen their current homes, and that affordable rental units are worth holding on to, especially when few affordable homes are available.
“High housing cost burdens threaten the economic security of Latino households,” write the authors.  “Addressing cost burdens is critical to ensure that Latinos have access to an affordable home, while freeing up dollars that individuals and families need to buy health insurance, save for an education, or for a down payment for a home, or take the pressure off of day-to-day finances.”
Read the UnidosUS Report

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Opportunity Starts at Home
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