Study Finds Renters' Worries Impacts Health

By Sarah Birnbaum

Jan. 21, 2011

BOSTON - Researchers from the Boston Medical Center say families struggling to pay the rent make trade-offs that could harm their own health, and the health of their children. Megan Sandel, a pediatrician and researcher at the Boston Medical Center, says the extent of the problem is striking.

"We're talking about families that are four times as likely to report that they are cutting back on their kid's meals on a regular basis, as compared to families that are regularly houses... and twice as much as families who are in shelters," says Sandel.

The report finds that when a family falls behind on rent or mortgage payments, children are at risk for poor health, increased hospitalization, developmental delays, and shorter stature - which is a sign of malnutrition.

The report calls for lawmakers to increase spending on affordable housing and rental assistance vouchers. State representative Kevin Honan, the chairman of the Housing Committee, doesn't believe those funds are forthcoming given Massachusetts' budget woes.

"We have a group of folks who advocate strongly for more funding, but it's tough to be optimistic in this climate. These are very difficult times," says Honan.

Advocates say the State's affordable housing and homelessness budget has gone down 13% over the past three years. Although Gov. Deval Patrick says housing is one of his priorities, even more cuts are expected when he presents his budget at the end of the month.

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