Alameda County Public Health Department head Dr. Muntu Davis has declared Oakland's housing crisis a health crisis as well. The East Bay Express writes that Davis is drawing on a new study conducted by Oakland research group PolicyLink Center for Infrastructure Equity, who linked the two crises after interviews with 188 Health Department workers and 167 Behavioral Services staff and contractors. Between 2012 and 2014, 94 percent of their clients, they said, had experienced stress related to housing insecurity that harmed their health and required more services. Even 10 of the health workers interviewed for the study had been displaced themselves, knowing the effects first hand.
“Oakland and the surrounding region are experiencing extraordinary economic growth,” PolicyLink senior director Kalima Rose told the Chronicle. “but the accompanying housing crisis is tearing apart the social fabric of one of the most diverse cities in America.”
Per the study, that's also tearing individuals apart: Compared with Alameda County residents who spent less than 25 percent of income on rent, those spending 35 percent of income on rent were twice as likely be hospitalized with mental illness or hypertension. Overcrowded housing, the result of expensive and unstable housing, can also cause a variety of health problems. The study claims children living in homes with 10 to 12 extra people were more likely to end up in the emergency room with an asthma attack.
The East Bay Express asks readers to also consider more fully the emotional and physical toll, difficult to quantify but undeniable, housing instability. Those may include longer commutes, interrupted educations, and frayed families and social networks.
"While the causes and solutions to address the housing crisis are complex," Dr. Davis said, "inaction is a prescription for shorter, sicker lives for many of our Alameda County Residents."
To stabilize housing — and with it, according to the study, health — Alameda Country residents will vote in November on a $580 million housing bond, and Oakland residents will vote on a local measure to require that property owners petition the city in the case of some rent increases.