Evidence and Ideas for Change Introducing Housing Matters, a new Urban Institute initiative
Sarah Rosen Wartell
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So many of the issues we study at the Urban Institute are interconnected. Urban’s policy breadth gives us a unique ability to identify opportunities for change at those intersections. Our new initiative, Housing Matters, is a perfect example. It aims to support and inform changemakers in the housing, health, education, criminal justice, child welfare, and civil rights fields, among others, to unlock solutions to today’s affordable housing crisis and, in doing so, achieve better outcomes and well-being on all these dimensions.

This focus on collaborative, more holistic strategies is at the heart of Housing Matters, which we launched with support from the Kresge Foundation. Our focus also represents a turning point for Urban: for the past several years, with investments from the MacArthur Foundation, we have curated decades of research exploring how access to housing affects people and communities. Today, the answer is clear. Unstable or unaffordable housing leads to less opportunity and diminished well-being. We know housing matters. So now we seek to link arms with those who want to understand how to make stable, affordable housing work to decrease health care costs, make communities safer, reduce childhood trauma, provide equitable access to opportunity, and much more.

Housing Matters is led by Urban senior policy associate Maya Brennan, vice president for metropolitan housing and communities policy Mary Cunningham, policy program manager Courtney Jones, and vice president and chief innovation officer Erika Poethig, with digital communications manager Veronica Gaitán overseeing the website and outreach. The initiative aims to achieve the following:

  • demonstrate when and how housing stability can improve people’s health, educational opportunities, children’s well-being, and other factors—including decreased time spent in jail, as the City of Denver’s first social impact bond to fund a supportive housing program has achieved for many residents
  • examine the opportunities and challenges that emerge when different sectors work together to tackle housing instability
  • share what we learn with others, while continuing to examine the unanswered questions
  • build the capacity of local decisionmakers and practitioners to design evidence-based, tailored responses to their communities’ housing challenges

I encourage you to explore Housing Matters’ research, tools, and storytelling and tell me what you think. I also welcome your support as we begin this journey to strengthen alliances across sectors and together scale effective solutions to deliver the stable housing that too many families in our country lack.

Research Areas Housing
Policy Centers Research to Action Lab