Housing insecurity is a phrase that’s being used more frequently, as the world becomes more aware of the pervasiveness of basic needs insecurity and poverty. As the conversation continues, it is important to understand the housing insecurity definition and how we build programs to address it. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s digital magazine, the definition of housing insecurity is broad, describing most types of housing challenges including difficulty finding affordable, safe, and/or quality housing, having unreliable or inconsistent housing, and overall loss of housing.
Most important to note is that the housing insecurity definition does not solely describe a loss of lack of housing. Some examples of housing insecurity are families living in a poorly maintained apartment with known electrical code violations or multiple families living in a single family apartment. Additionally, families whose monthly rent is significantly high when compared to family income that they are one missed paycheck away from eviction.
“Housing insecurity means you don’t know if you’re going to be able to keep a roof over your head consistently,” says Edquity product manager Keyarash Jahanian. “Financial insecurity creates a state of worry about next month’s rent, and you experience constant stress and worry about whether you can stay in your home.”
That psychological struggle–the fear of having to live out of your car or figure out temporary solutions while you look for more permanent housing–creates trauma. Housing insecurity is particularly prevalent in cities because of increasing rents and home ownership costs. And that forces people to live farther and farther away from their jobs.
Ways to combat housing insecurity
Some colleges and universities are tackling housing insecurity by providing free housing or reducing housing costs for their students. For example, Imperial Valley College in California provides 26 tiny homes for housing-insecure students, with the help of state and private funding. In Portland, Oregon, ARCS is a pilot program in collaboration with Portland Community College, Portland State University, New Avenues for Youth, and College Housing Northwest that provides housing and rental assistance to homeless and housing insecure students.
Edquity’s ability to distribute emergency financial assistance quickly is also helpful, says Jahanian. In fact, housing insecurity is the No. 1 category of need among students who apply for aid via Edquity’s app.
“Many students come to Edquity who are struggling with housing insecurity,” says Jahanian. “Being able to give them money supports their housing stability.”
Edquity’s new rental assistance program will allow cities to distribute federal money dedicated to rental assistance more efficiently, by making the application process easier.
“We’ve heard stories of nonprofits and CBOs and other providers who are processing applications and have backlogs back to the spring of 2021,” says Jahanian. “We’re hoping to build a system that makes all that a lot more seamless. Our end goal is to make the experience easier for every stakeholder: the landlords, the tenant, and the staff person reviewing applications. In those ways, we can make a significant impact.”