480369225Shelter is one of the most fundamental requirements for good health.  Inadequate housing and homelessness leads to increased illness and premature death. High housing costs reduce the resources available to support other factors that impact on health such as food, employment, and income.  These factors are called the social determinants of health.  Living in poor housing creates stress and unhealthy means of coping.

Did you know:
Housing is considered affordable if it costs less than 30 % of before-tax household income. This leaves enough money left over to pay for other necessities aside from fuel, electricity and water to include food, clothing, transportation, daycare,dental. In Simcoe County, almost half (2011) of renters paid greater than 30 % of income on rent

Not only does affordable and suitable housing make a difference, but where people live impacts on their health as well:

  • – People who live in neighbourhoods where incomes are lower and who have less education are more likely to smoke, be overweight, and report poorer mental health
  • – Recent research on the design of neighbourhoods shows that people benefit from living in neighbourhoods made up of a mix of residential, commercial, and business activities, with housing that facilitates social interactions and that makes walking from home to work and shopping easy.  These neighbourhoods have lower levels of obesity and greater social contact and do better at encouraging the pro-social behaviour of young people
  • – Over and above individual and family-level influences, a person’s neighbourhood income level in childhood can profoundly affect his or her health, performance in school and achievement in later life
  • – Lower income households who live in mixed income neighbourhoods have better health and education outcomes than if they live in strictly lower income neighbourhoods.

 

What can our municipalities do to improve housing and improve people’s health?

  • – Develop a Housing First Strategy official plan to ensure development includes affordable, adequate and sustainable housing for middle and lower income families and individuals – particularly those working at minimum wage.
  • – Develop and enforce property standards to ensure safe and adequate housing.
  • – Provide emergency housing funds to support people temporarily vacating their homes while landlords remove and sanitize homes from mold, mildew and infestations.
  • – Invest in re-development and re-vitalization of lower income neighbourhoods that includes residents’ amenities such as public spaces, community gardens and recreation.
  • – Provide active transportation  and public transit options in lower income neighbourhoods to allow resident access to grocery stores, health services, schools, recreational facilities and areas of employment
  • – Promote housing grants in order to renovate homes for seniors allowing them to remain at home longer
  • – Educate and report on the state of housing to improve public attitudes, social responsibility, inclusiveness
  • – Make it easier for developers to invest in affordable housing.

References
1. Raphael, Dennis and Juha Mikkonen; Social Determinants of Health The Canadian Facts; available on line www.thecanadianfacts.org
2. Canada Mortgage and Housing 2013. Affordable Housing.
3. 2011 National Household Survey, Statistics Canada
4. King, Arlene, Dr. Make No Little Plans – Ontario’s Public Health Sector Strategic Plan (2013)
5. Komro, Kelli et al; Clin child Fam Psychol Rev. 2011 June: 14(2): 111-134. Doi: 10.1007/s10567-011-0095-2; Creating Nurturing Environments: A Science-Based Framework for Promoting child health and development within high poverty neighbourhoods.
6. Neighbourhoods and Healthy Child Development, 2013. CRICH St. Michael’s hospital2013
7. Wellesley Institute (2012). Housing and Health: Examining the links. Available on-line: http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Housing-and-Health-Examining-the-Links.pdf

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