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Public Housing and Children’s Education

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  1. 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

  2. Overview • 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

  3. 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

  4. 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).

  5. Amenity • 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

  6. Neighbourhood • 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

  7. 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”

  8. Cost • 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.

  9. Transience • 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

  10. 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)

  11. 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)?

  12. Education: Comparison

  13. Why education outcomes have changed?

  14. Limitations • Small sample • Small sample of children • Moved into better public housing stock (newer, very few high density estates, located in more socially diverse neighbourhoods)

  15. Issues • 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

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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.

  20. 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

  21. 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)

  22. 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) Because: • Unstable housing and changing schools is thought to reduce the effectiveness of school based remediation strategies (a role of housing).

  23. 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

  24. 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

  25. 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

  26. Risks • 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?

  27. 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)