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Homeownership in modern industrialized nations has become a commodity in the real estate market. It no longer represents an idolized dream of creating a family home. However, the value of homeownership as a factor in individual and social stability is significantly underestimated. Housing is a significant social asset, providing financial security, well-being, and public benefits to homeowners.
Financial Security and Well-Being
Affordable and stable housing ensures the financial security of a population. A stable housing situation has become a direct indicator of economic status. Access to affordable housing ensures that families can succeed professionally and receive public education. The overall quality of life of the household increases as owning a home provides an opportunity to establish equity or invest in postsecondary education. It is one of the primary ways of moving up the socio-economic ladder (Corporation for Enterprise Development, 2015). There is a generally positive correlation between homeownership and employment, suggesting that housing is an indicator of better job outcomes and lower unemployment rates (Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit, 2016). The financial situation in a household directly reflects the well-being and social interaction of individuals.
Housing directly impacts the health and well-being of individuals. Physical health is associated with living conditions that can be detrimentally affected by overcrowding, aging utilities, or poor planning (Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit, 2016). This can cause a variety of diseases and premature mortality. Mental health is impacted by housing availability with homeowners experiencing fewer instances of depression and anxiety. Homeownership positively impacts the health of vulnerable groups such as children and older citizens. Studies show that in all instances, including the acquisition of housing by low-income families, there is a definitive improvement in the physical and mental health of residents (Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit, 2016). Public healthcare programs should target vulnerable populations by providing access to housing.
Meanwhile, long-term homelessness is directly correlated with poor health. It results in acute and chronic illnesses that form due to prolonged exposure to weather elements, disease, violence, and limited access to medical care (Henwood, Cabassa, Craig, & Padgett, 2013). Access to primary housing provides physical security and a sense of stability that can negate the adversity faced by homeless individuals. Also, housing provides the foundation and space necessary for basic health or hygiene-related behaviors such as preparation of food and bathing (Henwood, Cabassa, Craig, & Padgett, 2013). A lack of availability of even the necessities for homeless people has a derogatory social health impact.
The social elements of housing begin with security and control over the household and life events. It results in higher levels of satisfaction and better psychological health as social status is based on housing. Stress due to a lack of housing can lead to mental illness or social desperation, which can be correlated with violent crime. Housing, particularly homeownership, inherently impacts the stability of families choosing to remain in one location. Therefore, children can receive a continuous education while adult participation in the community increases. Families can build a network of friends and professional connections that provide foundational support for social well-being (Rohe & Lindblad, 2013). By focusing on building healthy communities, the social difficulties in certain areas can be resolved.
The availability of housing contributes to social health by ensuring stability, involvement, and civic activity. Stability is impacted through human capital, which accumulates with education and wealth acquired with the availability of housing. Homeowners tend to look after a personal property which helps to maintain cleanliness in neighborhoods. The interest in establishing a better-quality way of life encourages homeowners to invest in the local environment and infrastructure. This aspect is also evident in citizen socio-political participation. People will choose to vote actively and engage in community discussions to protect or enhance the emotional and financial investment into the place of residence. The longer the length of tenure, the more socially stable a region is (Rohe, Van Zandt, & McCarthy, 2013). The social impact of housing availability can be achieved through government support and providing necessary public infrastructure for development.
Homelessness is associated with poverty and social exclusion. Housing physically provides a space for social interaction and the building of social support mechanisms in a community. A case study by Johnstone et al on the topic sought to establish a connection between secure housing and psychological well-being (2016). Variations in social support were compared to reports of life satisfaction, mood, and personal well-being. Results showed that respondents exhibited scores 10 points below the normative range of well-being in Australia. Stable housing was critical to a person’s state, with a majority reporting that social support was crucial beyond providing hosing. A decline in social support automatically dropped the well-being index. This has implications for policy as it seems to be important to demonstrate social support for those transitioning out of homelessness. It can be done by integrating social participation during housing problems and give opportunities to these individuals to sustain their living situation (Johnstone et al., 2016). While the issue remains a socio-political one, it has a basis in human psychology.
Housing plays a significant role in instability based on financial security, health, and social interaction. The financial difficulty of acquiring and maintaining a residence in even the basic housing units highlights the importance to address this through social policy. It is an issue that arises in practically every region of the world. As the global population increases, solutions should be formed to address the housing crisis to maintain social stability.
Corporation for Enterprise Development. (2015). Gaining and sustaining housing stability. Web.
Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit. (2016). Social and economic impacts of housing tenure. Web.
Henwood, B., Cabassa, L., Craig, C., & Padgett, D. (2013). Permanent supportive housing: Addressing homelessness and health disparities. American Journal of Public Health, 103(2), 188-192. Web.
Johnstone, M., Parsell, C., Jetten, J., Dingle, G., & Walter, Z. (2016). Breaking the cycle of homelessness: Housing stability and social support as predictors of long-term well-being. Housing Studies, 31(4), 410-426. Web.
Rohe, W., & Lindblad, M. (2013). Reexamining the social benefits of homeownership after the housing crisis. Web.
Rohe, W., Van Zandt, S., McCarthy, G. (2013). The social benefits and costs of homeownership: A critical assessment of the research. In R. Tighe & E. Mueller (Eds.), The affordable housing reader (pp. 196-211). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.