National Housing Day: Why is housing so important?
At Habitat for Humanity, when we build a house, we are not just building a shelter. We are building hope, resilience and strength. We are creating a safe environment for children to grow and families to prosper. We are contributing to the economic vitality of communities.
In honour of National Housing Day, here are some of the benefits that decent, affordable housing brings to its inhabitants and the wider community.
Adequate housing positively impacts physical health
Housing has a direct correlation to health. According to the World Health Organization, health risks related to poor housing conditions include respiratory and cardiovascular diseases from indoor air pollution, illness and death from temperature extremes, communicable diseases spread from poor living conditions and risks of injuries within the home.
It can sometimes be the case that health-related issues in housing disproportionately impact certain populations. In Canada, there is a problem with mould in First Nations housing on-reserves, as outlined in the National First Nations Housing Strategy.
The strategy notes that while the federal government and other groups have developed a communications strategy relating to the presence of mould, resources to solve the problem have not been identified. The City of Toronto’s website outlines the potential health impacts of living in a house with mould, including increased asthma attacks and allergic reactions.
Adequate housing positively impacts mental health and wellbeing
Adequate and decent housing also contributes to mental wellbeing by providing a safer environment to live and work. Housing “leads to increased personal safety and helps decrease stress, leading to improved sleep and diet,” according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)’s website. In a 2015 study, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that Habitat partner families report reduced psychological distress due to having a more stable living environment.
Adequate housing can reduce food bank use
As housing prices rise and more and more Canadians fall into core housing need, the services of food banks are increasingly necessary for families. As the Ontario Association of Food Banks wrote in a blog post for HuffPost, housing is a non-negotiable cost for many individuals and families.
When housing prices are high, this means that it is more challenging to allocate money to life’s basic necessities like food. Ninety per cent of food bank clients are either rental or social housing tenants, according to the OAFB’s 2015 Hunger Report from the Ontario Association of Food Banks.
Affordable housing means families pay a mortgage of no more than 30 per cent of their overall income. This allows for more room to spend money on necessities like food. In fact, BCG’s study found that Habitat partner families reduced their use of food banks by 60 per cent after moving into their home.
Adequate housing can lead to long-term stability
Ultimately, investing in adequate housing is investing in the long-term stability and vitality of families for generations to come. After moving into their Habitat home, parents worked a stable number of hours across fewer overall jobs and were able to earn more income, according to the BCG report.
Adequate housing also brings a plethora of benefits for children, too. BCG found that children in Habitat partner families had a lower dropout rate, and had equal or better chances of graduating with a bachelor’s degree than children in the study’s control families.
Today, on National Housing Day, Habitat for Humanity Halton-Mississauga-Dufferin is excited to be continuing to work towards our vision of a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. To learn more about the work that we’re doing, visit our website.
By Sherina Harris
Updated: July 5, 2021