Having a stable, safe, and affordable place to call home impacts our ability to be healthy. But because America’s foundational housing policies and systems intentionally excluded Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, far too many people in our nation are at risk of poorer health because a home is out of reach.
We believe housing justice means that everyone has safe, accessible, secure, affordable, and dignified living conditions with equitable access to what one needs to thrive. When we have an affordable place to live, we have money left after paying rent to spend on things like foods and prescriptions. We can confidently plan for the future and we’re not worried about being evicted. When we have agency over the neighborhoods in which we live, we can access vital resources, such as transportation, schools, health institutions, jobs, food, and social services.
Housing is health—and because of historic and persisting systemic inequities, they are both inextricable from racial justice. To end the racialized experience of homelessness and housing insecurity that affects communities of color and to repair its devastating health effects, we must center racial justice in our linked philanthropic approaches to health and housing.
Longstanding Inequities and Racism in Housing
A stable, safe, and affordable home is not accessible to everyone equally in the United States, largely because structural racism has created and exacerbated inequities in housing. For decades, our housing policies meant only some families, mainly white families, could rent or own homes in thriving neighborhoods without fear of displacement. Although many policies like redlining are outlawed, they persist in new forms, and we continue to see communities deeply segregated along racial lines. Millions of people have been relegated to inadequate housing, with few pathways for advancement or protection in times of crisis.
Better Housing, Better Health: A Road to Racial Justice and Liberation
Health outcomes and access to quality health care are directly tied to a safe affordable home. In fact, affordable housing can reduce emergency room visits by 18 percent, increase primary physician visits by 20 percent, and decrease overall medical expenses by 12 percent (Opportunity Starts at Home 2022). If we are committed to health equity and racial justice and want to continue to improve health outcomes, then housing justice must be central to this work. Advancing housing justice creates health equity for communities of color disproportionately affected by housing instability and homelessness. Ultimately, housing justice advances racial justice and starts us on a path towards liberation.
Read the full article about housing justice by Amanda Andere and Jeanne Fekade-Sellassie at Grantmakers In Health.