Impact of Housing Instability on Health

Contact Us

Interested in learning more about the Institute for Public Health? We’d love to hear from you.

Impact of Housing Instability on Health

Impact of Housing Instability on Physical and Mental Health

A lack of safe, affordable housing can increase the risk of health problems. Reasons for this include: 

  • High rent impacts ability to afford other necessities including food, medication, and transportation.
  • Affordable housing is often in neighborhoods with higher crime rates, thus exposing residents to a greater risk of injury.
  • Living in an unsafe neighborhood and/or struggling to pay rent contributes to high levels of stress, which can have lasting impacts on health.
  • Affordable housing is often in areas that lack grocery stores and access to healthy food options. This contributes to health conditions like obesity and diabetes.
  • Affordable housing is often in neighborhoods with underfunded schools. This impacts children’s ability to access a quality education.

Housing Instability

Housing instability, including homelessness, can happen for a variety of reasons, including: 

  • Job instability
  • Overcrowding 
  • Other financial or social factors

“Overcrowding” refers to more than two people living in one bedroom or multiple families living in one home, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Factors that Contribute to Housing Instability or Homelessness

  • Evictions
  • Finances or cost burden
  • Fleeing domestic violence 
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Moving often
  • Mental health or substance use issues
  • Natural disasters
  • Past incarceration
  • Physical health issues and disabilities
  • Involvement in criminal justice or foster care system

Issues Associated with Housing Quality

Additionally, the physical, social and economic conditions of the neighborhood and home can impact health. These issues include: 

  • Crime rates and violence
  • Law enforcement presence
  • Environmental conditions
  • Quality of schools 
  • Access to public transportation

Affordable housing may expose residents to conditions that negatively impact health, including:

  • Lack of insulation, air conditioning or heat
  • Poor building maintenance that can cause injury 
  • Dangerous chemicals (such as asbestos)
  • Vermin and pests
  • Mold
  • Water leaks

Housing Cost Burden

Figure 1: Percent of Homeowners with Cost Burdens in the US and Bexar County Data from Joint Center for Housing Studies, 2019Figure 2: Percent of Renters with Cost Burdens in the US and Bexar County Data from Joint Center for Housing Studies, 2019

In the U.S., households are “cost burdened” if they spend 30% or more of their income on housing. They are “severely cost burdened” if they spend more than 50% of their income on housing.

In 2019, 37.1 million American households, including renters and owners, were cost burdened. Of these, 17.6 million households were severely cost burdened. 

In 2020, about 14% of households in Bexar County were severely cost burdened.

Incidence of Homelessness in San Antonio

Figure 3: Number of Persons Experiencing Homelessness in San Antonio Data from City of San Antonio Point in Time Count, 2019Figure 4: Number of Homelessness Sub-Populations Data from City of San Antonio Point in Time Count, 2019

Homelessness is defined as “lacking a regular nighttime residence or having a primary nighttime residence that is a temporary shelter or other place not designed for sleeping.” About 580,000 people experienced homelessness in the United States on a single night in 2020. 

In San Antonio, family homelessness increased by 12% between 2016 and 2020, despite only a 5% increase in homelessness overall. More than 3,155 people experienced homelessness in Bexar County on a single night in 2023.

Community Resources  

Find community resources in your area on University Health’s website.

San Antonio Community Resource Directory - Housing Services Portal

SACRD Housing Services Portal serve as a one-stop shop to help residents find programs that can assist with housing-related issues in and around Bexar County.

Housing First Community Coalition

Housing First Community Coalition is a 501c3 nonprofit organization in San Antonio. Their goal is to build permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness in San Antonio. They are especially interested in helping seniors who have long histories of homelessness.

The South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless (SARAH)

SARAH secures and distributes funding for direct service providers in the housing and homeless community and provides guidance to improve policies and programs. 


Prospera provides safe, high quality, affordable housing with support services to those in need.