Inner city streets - Camden, NJ

How Housing Instability Can Impact Health 

When trying to strengthen communities, housing instability can be a real roadblock. Whether it means people living in areas where monthly rent is outpacing paychecks, or neighborhoods situated too far away from schools or grocery stores, this type of housing-based painpoint can push people into unsafe or unaffordable living conditions. 

It can also impact people’s physical and mental health.  

That’s because housing instability can encompass several different dimensions of housing problems that people experience, such as affordability, along with safety, quality and security, according to Eric Hufnagel, Executive Director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness. 

“We see people who are living beyond their means, and not because they’re living extravagantly. It’s because of the pressures of the market,” said Hufnagel. Their “income cannot keep up with the cost of the housing.” 

On the latest episode of A Healthier Michigan Podcast, hosted by Chuck Gaidica, he and Hufnagel discuss the impact of housing instability and how everyone can be part of the solution, beginning by understanding the problem.  

Rent-burdened 

 Those paying more than 30% of their income for housing are considered rent-burdened, based on a calculation that has been used for decades. 

Rising rent can eat into other essentials, such as transportation, food, medications and medical expenses, forcing people into difficult decisions. A loss of a job or income can snowball into situations where someone may not be able to pay their rent or cover their mortgage.  

“It’s not all about our choices at times. Sometimes, there are those wider forces that we can’t control,” said Hufnagel.  

Part of the solution 

So how can you be part of the solution? A good first step is donating your time and talents as a volunteer to organizations who address housing. Another step is to take the time to educate yourself on the issue.  

“If we can understand more about the issues in our communities and speak about them publicly, whether it be in social media or an email to an elected official, we are going to help raise the visibility about the issue,” said Hufnagel.  

Reach out to organizations that are engaged in some of this work, find out what they’re doing, find out how you might be able to get involved and do not hesitate to share your views of the importance of trying to address some of these many underlying issues that affect and contribute to homelessness.  

“We need to look at that human approach to things, and not think it’s just all about somebody else having to deal with it. We have a role, we have a responsibility,” said Hufnagel.  

Listen to the full episode here.   

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Photo credit: Getty

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