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Five Housing Scenarios That Promote Upward Mobility

A report from the Urban Institute suggests policymakers and housing advocates should aim to not only prevent evictions, foreclosures, and homelessness, but also should put safeguards in place to better protect people from the next housing crisis and, authors say, "bolster resilience in their path to upward mobility."

"People will emerge from this economic recession deeply scathed: way below and way behind where they were before the pandemic," wrote research assistant Elizabeth Champion and research associate Megan Gallager, who authored the paper. "We should put safeguards in place now to better protect people from the next housing crisis and bolster resilience in their path to upward mobility. And temporary financial support is not enough. For households to advance beyond the inequitable, pre-pandemic status quo, policymakers and practitioners should create housing recovery strategies that advance holistic upward mobility."

Below are the five "housing outcomes," as determined by the researchers, " beyond  supporting housing affordability and stability, that, as a "bundle," have the power to advance a households' upward mobility. These items, they say, represent a pivot "from an emergency response to a housing recovery that advances holistic mobility from poverty."

  • Housing affordability—it can promote multiple dimensions of mobility, the authors explain. "Low housing costs can allow a household to accumulate savings and wealth," they noted.
  • Housing stability—instability, or frequent moves, can negatively affect the financial and physical health of a household, but stability allows people to make investments in their communities, social relationships, health, and education. Say the researchers, "rent subsidies, eviction moratoriums, and mortgage forbearance programs all encourage housing stability."
  • Housing quality—this can have long-term effects on a family's autonomy and economic success. "The quality of housing can also affect energy efficiency, creating a larger economic burden for households," the researchers said. "Building code enforcement, lead abatement programs, and energy efficiency standards can help improve housing quality outcomes."
  • Home equity—housing that builds wealth can offer homeowners a resource for investments in education, health, and other opportunities, according to the institute's study.

"Many federal, state, and local policies and programs are intended to support homeownership and home equity," they wrote, "and certain demonstrations and evaluations, like the MicroMortgage Marketplace, seek to expand lending and increase sustainable homeownership for low- and moderate-income households in low-cost markets across the country."

  • Neighborhood context—though the specific ingredients that render a neighborhood 'high opportunity' are still being explored, qualities that reflect a neighborhood’s ability to promote upward mobility include levels of segregation and income inequality, along with other aspects of health, employment, education, housing, and transportation, according to the institute's study.

"Together, a neighborhood’s set of resources, opportunities, and characteristics can either boost or inhibit upward mobility for residents," the researchers noted. "Deconcentrating and declustering lower-cost housing could expand neighborhood choices for very low–income people and their ability to move to high-opportunity neighborhoods."

The entire study and methodology can be accessed at urban.org/urbanwire.

About Author: Christina Hughes Babb

Christina Hughes Babb is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she has been a reporter, editor, and publisher in the Dallas area for more than 15 years. During her 10 years at Advocate Media and Dallas Magazine, she published thousands of articles covering local politics, real estate, development, crime, the arts, entertainment, and human interest, among other topics. She has won two national Mayborn School of Journalism Ten Spurs awards for nonfiction, and has penned pieces for Texas Monthly, Salon.com, Dallas Observer, Edible, and the Dallas Morning News, among others. Contact Christina at [email protected].

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