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Public Housing and Children’s Education Peter Young Department of Housing, Queensland Presentation to Shelter NSW seminar, ‘Housing dollars, social value’, Sydney, 5 July 2005 Overview Links between social housing and educational outcomes Policy drivers

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public housing and children s education

Public Housing and Children’s Education

Peter Young

Department of Housing, Queensland Presentation to Shelter NSW seminar, ‘Housing dollars, social value’, Sydney, 5 July 2005

  • Links between social housing and educational outcomes
  • Policy drivers
  • Making policy on the basis of this understanding – a social housing program better aligned to strategic government outcomes
factors affecting educational outcomes
Factors affecting educational outcomes
  • Genetics
  • School readiness
  • Early school achievement
  • Socio-economic status
  • Parents education
  • Gender
  • Stressful life events (e.g. death or unemployment of a parent)
  • Parent’s involvement
  • Ethnicity
  • Quality of teachers, resources of school etc etc
but what about housing
But what about housing?
  • We suggested that housing affects educational outcomes for children through a number of different mechanisms:
    • Amenity
    • Neighbourhood
    • Cost and
    • Transience (Young 2002).
  • Housing amenity, such as overcrowding, can result in lack of space for a child to do homework and thus can act as a deterrent in their educational endeavour.
  • Crowding can contribute to household conflict and transmission of illness
  • A house that affects children’s health (for example a dusty/moulding house may induce asthma) may also have an impact through school attendance patterns, and side effects of medication
  • The nature of the neighbourhood is important for a child’s social development;
  • The quality of the neighbourhood also has a bearing on the quality of the local community resources including schools
Teachers – “What is the dominant culture in the school community? Is there a critical mass of families who value education?”
  • Neighbourhood related expectations – “Local school preparing our kids for TAFE rather than University”
  • Disposable income (after housing costs) has an impact on the ability of parents to purchase materials to assist the child with their education (books, computers, excursions, internet connections etc)
  • Housing cost is a big factor in poverty, which in turn is a major factor in household stress and all associated outcomes.
  • High private housing costs may be a significant factor in regularly moving.
  • Transience is seen as a function of housing tenure. Lack of housing stability may cause unplanned moves of both residences and schools leading to a negative impact on educational outcomes.
  • Moving home can contribute to social isolation
  • Regular moves can impact on kids emotional wellbeing
  • Most at-risk kids may be those who move and who need remediation – slip through cracks
exploring these issues using a longitudinal survey
Exploring these issues using a longitudinal survey
  • Approach is a based on a longitudinal survey in Brisbane
  • Tenants were interviewed twice:
    • Once when they have just moved into social housing (T1)
      • (178 households);
    • Once about six months later (T2)
      • (151 households)
Study designed to have a reasonable proportion of sample who experienced a significant change when they moved into public housing
  • Hypothesis is that “good” public housing can make a significant difference
  • What is it about the intervention that helped (eg. stability, reduced crowding, lower cost)?
  • What are the impacts in other aspects of people’s lives?
  • Why – what are the processes (qualitative element)?
  • Small sample
  • Small sample of children
  • Moved into better public housing stock (newer, very few high density estates, located in more socially diverse neighbourhoods)
  • The study confirmed the relevance of the four reported factors (amenity, neighbourhood, cost and transience)
  • However it suggested another issue - the stress levels of the household and the children
  • Cognitive overload of the children and the parents mitigated against successful outcomes
one example
One example
  • Household moved out of bad public housing
  • 2 years of very unstable private housing
  • Very poor health outcomes – depression and ADHD diagnosed
  • Secured older public housing property but in a socially mixed area
  • Halved dosage of mother’s anti-depressants
  • Child’s behaviour improved to extent that reversed earlier ADHD diagnosis
where to from here
Where to from here?
  • “T3”:
  • Going back and interviewing 20 households with children to explore in more detail the educational outcomes another 24 months down the road
where to from here18
Where to from here?
  • The University of Sydney are doing a large analysis in Brisbane of all children who have moved into public housing over a 4 year period between the Year 5 and Year 7 Basic skills test to try to determine whether there has been a relative improvement in the children’s performance after their housing has changed
policy issues housing and education
Policy Issues - Housing and Education
  • As funding declines for public housing we need to review:
    • Who we prioritise for assistance, and
    • How we can assist people as efficiently as possible (so as to assist as many as possible)
    • Build the argument for continued funding.
who to prioritise for assistance
Who to prioritise for assistance?
  • Typical categories for out of turn allocation:
    • Homeless/at risk of homelessness
    • Medical condition affected by present housing
    • To facilitate family reunion (eg. child returning to care of family from foster care)
    • Escaping domestic violence
    • Family member with a disability requiring accessible housing
    • Victim of natural disaster
  • As well as….
    • To facilitate stock regeneration
dimensions of out of turn policies
Dimensions of out of turn policies
  • An aspect of housing (too small, too expensive, very poor condition)
  • A household characteristic (ill-health, disability, victim of violence, very low income)

Resulting in:

  • A non-shelter consequence or impact (illness, violence, reduced quality of life or opportunity)

Based on:

  • An implicit assumption about therole or importance of housing (better housing can improve health)
using our findings on education to guide targeting policies
Using our findings on education to guide targeting policies
  • Households living in unstable housing and/or a history of frequent moves (an aspect of housing); and
  • Households with a child requiring school based remediation (a household characteristic);

Such a policy may result in:

  • Improved school attainment levels and retention rates (non-shelter impact)


  • Unstable housing and changing schools is thought to reduce the effectiveness of school based remediation strategies (a role of housing).
housing and education in partnership
Housing and education in partnership
  • Not every child will benefit educationally from stable housing
  • Some children require stable housing in a different place
  • Developing and implementing this policy requires a partnership between State Housing Authorities and Education authorities
  • Suggests new ways of measuring success
what forms of assistance to offer
What forms of assistance to offer?
  • Declining funding places greater focus on efficiency – cost per household assisted
  • Need to consider those waiting for assistance as well as those in the system
  • One approach is to put more effort into understanding what aspect(s) of housing require attention, and focussing assistance just on those aspect(s)
  • Requires good client assessment systems, and a wider range of housing assistance products
moving from super supreme for a few to cheese lovers for many
Moving from super-supreme for a few to cheese-lovers for many
  • Public housing provides affordability, security, location, appropriateness – a multi-need intervention (“the works”)
  • Most SHAs have a limited range of single-need interventions, eg. bond loans
  • Single-need interventions may be more efficient way to meet specific needs such as housing stability.
  • Can we address the needs for housing stability for families with school aged children in ways other than public rental housing – eg. Brisbane Housing Company, Defence Housing Authority head-leases
  • Some people will always need super-supreme
  • Don’t inadvertently lose the aspect of the assistance that is making the biggest difference
  • In particular, security of tenure seems an obvious place to make changes – “help people to succeed out of public housing”
  • But what if stability is the thing that has made the biggest impact in terms of non-shelter outcomes?
  • Evidence based policy making – we demand it from the health system, why not the housing assistance system?
  • What non-shelter benefits? For whom? What aspects of housing helped deliver these benefits?
more information
More Information
  • AHURI full report and Research and Policy Bulletin summary (Issue 54)

  • Moving to Opportunity study – the impacts of neighbourhood (an argument for public housing in socially diverse neighbourhoods)