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Protecting Tenants, Landlords, or Places? The Ecology of Rental Housing Regulation in Illinois

Within the local government context, municipal code enforcement involves relatively entry-level decision makers operating across a highly uneven and diverse tapestry of neighborhoods and living situations. Implicit in code enforcement practices is a blending of objective health and safety concerns with highly subjective social and cultural norms. While code enforcement activities are vital for protecting individual and collective public health, safety, and wellbeing, the potential harms caused by implicit bias and differential treatment are great, and the material consequences and stakes grow increasingly higher, especially as cities adopt stronger nuisance and crime-free housing ordinances.  

This project will answer: 

  1. How different are municipal codes concerning residential housing and residential nuisances across middle-sized cities in Illinois?  

  1. What are the demographic characteristics of the neighborhoods in which code violations are being written and enforced? What are the types of penalties being leveraged, by neighborhood? 

  1. What are the individual and collective consequences of code enforcement activity for market actors, residents, and civil society? 

  1. What opportunities exist within the governance of code enforcement to minimize harms and disparate impacts while ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of residents.

Drawing on the experiences of local tenants, landlords, and code enforcement officers, this research will evaluate racial bias in rental housing code enforcement, and against homeowners if the data supports it, and has the potential to improve residential instability and displacement resulting, in part, from inequitable enforcement of local housing codes. 

Issue Area

Shaping Healthier Housing for Low-Income and Vulnerable Populations

The built environment and housing have pronounced effects on community health. This study will look at the reach of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) programs and their potential to produce healthier rental housing that serves low-income and vulnerable populations. The research will focus on four research questions:

  1. What occupant health-related built environment (OHBE) factors do states' Housing Finance Agencies (HFA) include to assess and award LIHTC funding?
  2. How do HFAs ensure compliance with promised OHBE practices once a project has received funding?
  3. What barriers exist to implementing OHBE in the LIHTC process and housing stock?
  4. How can states replicate effective practices in developing OHBE factors, incorporating them into policy, and ensuring implementation?

This research represents a rich opportunity for comprehensive evaluation of how states incentivize and incorporate OHBE factors in the LIHTC process, and opportunities for expansion.

Date Funded

Does the Value of Housing Assistance Impact Health Outcomes?

Low-income housing assistance programs represent a potentially powerful policy lever to promote population health and reduce health disparities. Yet, research on the impact of federal low-income housing programs on health outcomes remains highly limited, and no study to date has adequately explored whether the monetary value of housing assistance has an impact on health outcomes. Assisted households typically pay 30% of their income towards rent, and so the monetary value of housing assistance varies across households because of differences in household income, regional differences in typical rents, and the actual rental rate for assisted households. This may translate into meaningful differences in health outcomes.

This study seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. Does the value of housing assistance impact health outcomes?
  2. Does this impact vary across federal housing assistance programs?

The study will capitalize on a newly available dataset that links responses from the nationally-representative National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) for the period from 1999 to 2012 with HUD administrative records from 1999 to 2014.

Housing assistance is a scarce benefit, and findings from this study may help make a clear case for expanding such assistance and inform how existing (limited) resources can be used in the most efficient and effective manner to promote population health.

Date Funded

Housing Subsidies and Family Health

In the U.S., the key challenge for many households is housing affordability. Households paying more than one-half of a limited total income for rent have very little left over for food, transportation, education, and other critical expenses. And these rent burdens have only been growing. In 1960, fewer than one in four renters was rent-burdened (or paid more than 30 percent of their income on rent); today that fraction is nearly half.

Despite this growing challenge, few studies examine how the health of a family changes when it is invited to move into a subsidized home or receive a housing voucher to cover part of its rent. To fill this gap, the research team will study the impact of rent subsidies on health outcomes by focusing on families receiving three types of assistance. The team will examine:

  1. Changes in health and health care utilization of children moving into public and other HUD-assisted rental housing;
  2. Impacts of moving into developments created through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC); and,
  3. How the receipt of housing choice vouchers affects children’s health care utilization and health status.

Housing subsidies may improve health status in several ways. First, and most directly, families will immediately have more disposable income to pay for food, clothing, and other critical expenditures that may enhance their health. Second, the relief from rent burdens may remove stress from parents and children. Third, the new housing may help to stabilize families who have suffered from repeated displacement and allow them to remain in their homes. Finally, especially with housing choice vouchers, subsidies may enable families to move to higher quality homes and neighborhoods with more resources.

Date Funded

Local Policy Responses to Housing Voucher Discrimination

The Housing Choice Voucher program is the nation’s largest housing assistance program and has two main goals: to provide stable and affordable housing to very low–income households and to improve access to neighborhoods that offer healthy living environments. Growing evidence suggests that discrimination by private landlords impedes progress on both goals.

People who receive vouchers or other forms of federal or local housing assistance are not protected from discrimination by federal fair housing or civil rights laws, and in most places, landlords can legally refuse to rent to voucher holders. In response to the absence of federal protections, several states and local city or county governments have attempted to protect voucher holders from discrimination.

This study will assess whether and under what conditions state and local protections reduce landlord discrimination and improve the rate at which voucher holders are successful at finding housing.

This research will fill several knowledge gaps about how to leverage this crucial affordable housing investment to improve health equity. It will also support evidence-based advocacy and policymaking at a time when a growing number of local jurisdictions are adopting voucher protections but local laws are increasingly threatened by state preemption.

Date Funded

Equity and Recovery in the State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program

This study will seek to analyze Florida's State Housing Initiative Partnership Program's (SHIP) impact on equity and capital access before and after disasters. The research team will investigate whether SHIP supports neighborhoods underfunded in private mortgage markets, if, following a disaster, the SHIP program enables equitable distribution of housing resources underserved by traditional post disaster programs, and finally, what administrative factors are associated with equitable outcomes.  

This research will aim to directly impact the SHIP program by providing training through the Florida Housing Coalition, impacting policy in the State of Florida, creating a publicly accessible database for future research, as well as expanding the body of knowledge around state housing trust funds through research conducted by the University of Florida. 

Date Funded
Issue Area

The Impact of Fair Share Housing Policies on Racial Disparities in Health and Opportunity: Evidence from Massachusetts' Chapter 40B

Fair share housing policies offer a mechanism for reducing racial disparities in access to high opportunity areas. Since the 1960s, a number of U.S. states have implemented fair share policies, yet little research has evaluated the impact of fair share on equity or on the wellbeing of program beneficiaries.  

The current project addresses this gap by investigating the impact on wellbeing of the longest-running fair share program in the United States: Massachusetts Chapter 40B. Specifically, the research team will use a mixed-methods approach to evaluate the impacts of 40B on racial equity in housing stability, access to opportunity, and health outcomes for program participants. The fact that 40B’s affordable housing units are allocated using a random lottery process will allow the research team to rigorously examine the causal impact of the program on beneficiaries’ outcomes.  

This project will also characterize, for the first time, who is served by the 40B program and whether the program moves those beneficiaries from lower to higher opportunity areas. Data for this project will come from a variety of sources, including the Massachusetts Subsidized Housing Inventory, Opportunity Insights, Infutor Data Solutions, and the Massachusetts All-Payer Claims Database. Additionally, a partnership with MAPC will enable the research team to assemble the first-ever dataset on 40B lottery applicants.   

The overarching goal of this project is to produce robust evidence on the impact of affordable housing on wellbeing, informing 40B implementation within Massachusetts as well as scholarly debates about which housing policies most effectively promote racial equity in health, housing stability, and opportunity. 

Date Funded
Issue Area