It’s no secret that good health – physical, mental and behavioral health – is only possible with a stable, affordable home. For one in three Californians, this isn’t the case.
These families and individuals pay as much as half of their income to their rent or mortgage, leaving scant resources for food and other life essentials, while also taking focus away from improving things like health, education and jobs. The stress alone is enough to cause any number of health problems.
Numerous studies demonstrate that a stable home is key support pillar for families and family members seeking to improve or maintain a healthy lifestyle. One in three families struggling to maintain a household is simply too many in a state with the fifth largest economy in the world. There’s no question that our affordable housing crisis is also at the core of some of our state health crises.
As a recent example, during 2017 and 2018, a Hepatitis A outbreak was traced to unsanitary conditions on the street. The outbreak killed at least 20 people and infected around 600 others. These include families with children, veteran service men and women, elderly, those suffering from mental illness and others living on the street. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this was the deadliest Hepatitis A outbreak on record.
In November 2018, California voters will have a chance to take a bold step in addressing these housing and health issues. On the ballot are Proposition 1, the $4 billion Veterans and Affordable Housing Act; and Proposition 2, which authorizes the state to use Prop 63 tax revenue on $2 billion in bonds for homelessness prevention housing for people in need of mental health services.
Props 1 and 2 help build a healthier California by:
- Dedicating $1.5 billion for the Multifamily Housing Program to create more affordable housing options
- Providing $300 million for the Infill Infrastructure Grant Program to build and preserve affordable housing for low-income families and individuals (including supportive housing)
- Dedicating $150 million to the Transit-Oriented Development Program
- Providing housing and social services to homeless individuals, which will generate significant savings to the healthcare system, as much as a 69 percent reduction in costs for hospital and emergency care
Make no mistake, voting “No” means that more than 500,000 homeless individuals will continue to live, and die, on the street in California, with little hope of improving their living situation.
A “yes” vote in November means more people will have access to housing they can afford, which leads to stable relationships with healthcare providers, healthier and more nutritious meals, recovery from health problems resulting from low-quality housing or living on the street, reduced alcohol and substance abuse, and less dependence on hospitals and emergency services. It also means that many homeless people suffering from mental illness will get the housing and support services they need.
Beyond the health improvements that will come from this influx of affordable housing, there are economic health benefits to be had. The one-year impact of building 100 affordable apartment units means an estimated $11.7 million in local income and 1.62 jobs per apartment. The recurring impact of the same units could reach $2.6 million in local income and .44 jobs per apartment.
California’s housing crisis is a huge problem and while Props 1 and 2 don’t solve the problem entirely, they are a big step in the right direction. Vote yes on Props 1 and 2 in the November election.
Greg Anglea is the CEO of Interfaith Community Services.