For many, our homes are an expression of ourselves and our creativity. We change colors and fabrics to reflect our tastes and alter the furniture layout so that our home has a sense of flow and visual appeal.
But our homes are also a leading determinant of our mental and physical health. In fact, “Housing is one of the best-researched social determinants of health.”
Many of us have a friend or family member who suffered a fall because their home wasn’t designed to age in place. Lead exposure can lead to irreversible brain and nervous system damage. Poor ventilation and mold increase the likelihood of asthma. The health effects of asbestos and radon are well established, and a new debate has sprung up over the health effects of the nitrogen dioxide emitted from gas stoves in our kitchens.
What isn’t as well known is that housing, and particularly the consequences of its rampant unaffordability, has both mental and physical health implications. Early poverty, for instance, is linked to “toxic” stress that harms brain development. Families who are “housing burdened” are often forced to make compromises when it comes to nutrition, healthcare, and childcare.
When we expand the singular house into a collection of houses (otherwise known as a neighborhood!) the correlation between housing and health is even more pronounced. So much so, that the phrase “Your ZIP code is more important than your genetic code,” is often quoted in public health discussions.
At Habitat Kent we are very aware of all these issues and discussions. Health and stability through affordable housing is what we do. We know that when a family’s home is a blessing instead of a burden, they flourish!
So, from our vantage point, the future looks bright and hopeful. We see neighborhoods where families from different backgrounds live next to each other. We see children with hope in their eyes. We see families begin to realize that the future is wide open and not pre-ordained.
We see it because for the past 40 years, we’ve been blessed to witness it on almost a daily basis!