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Trauma-Informed Housing
  • Trauma-Informed Housing
  • Why Is Trauma-Informed Housing Needed?
  • What Makes Housing Trauma Informed?
  • Development and Design Process
  • Property Management
  • Resident Services
  • What Organizations Are Adopting Trauma-Informed Housing Principles?
  • MASS Design Group
  • Shopworks
  • The Kelsey
  • WinnCompanies
  • Enterprise Community Development
  • How Can We Make Trauma-Informed Housing the Standard for Affordable Housing?
  • Acknowledgments, Errata, and Credits
  • Why Is Trauma-Informed Housing Needed?

    The push for a trauma-informed, people-centered approach in affordable housing is, in part, a response to the history of racism and disempowerment in public and assisted housing policy in the United States. Most public housing was built before 1975, and in many communities, developments were deliberately segregated by race, with the lowest-quality housing in Black and Latinx communities, which further contributed to structural racism and disinvestment in communities of color. The federal government provided inadequate funding for management and maintenance, leaving residents to cope with unsafe and intolerable conditions. As conditions deteriorated, public housing became emblematic of the failures of social welfare programs and residents were stigmatized as “welfare queens” and criminals.

    Grove Parc Plaza

    Beginning in the 1970s, new programs gradually shifted much of the provision of affordable housing to the private sector through the Section 8 program (including portable Housing Choice Vouchers and Project-Based Rental Assistance) and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. Local zoning rules and public resistance meant that, as with public housing, many affordable properties and housing vouchers were concentrated in low-income and racially segregated areas.

    Compounding the challenges for affordable housing providers, occupancy policies often undermined trust and positioned property managers to enforce rules and manage crises, setting up a fraught relationship between staff and tenants. Further, funding for supportive services has always been limited, leaving providers to either find other resources or rely on making referrals to whatever services might be available in the community.

    Housing assistance is not an entitlement, and only one in four people who need assistance receive benefits. And, despite evidence of growing need, the level of federal funding for assistance overall has continued to decline over time.

    Looking back on the history of US affordable housing shows the multiple intersecting ways in which the housing system has contributed to and exacerbated harms to communities and residents. POAH highlights three pathways between the housing system and the trauma of residents and communities, which are described in the figure below and detailed in their toolkit.


    POAH uses three categories for defining the relationship between trauma and housing:

    POAH Illustration

    Source:Trauma & Housing,” in Trauma-Informed Housing: A Toolkit for Advancing Equity and Economic Opportunity in Affordable Housing, Preservation of Affordable Housing. Used with permission.
    Note: POAH = Preservation of Affordable Housing.