Opinion: Averting evictions prevents adverse health consequences

A new effort in Massachusetts is preventing evictions, helping tenants avoid health problems and disruptions to family stability, employment, and education, and making money for one of the largest rental property owners in Boston, according to an op-ed by John McDonough.

In a January 24, 2022 article in the Milbank Quarterly, McDonough, professor of the practice of public health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a former Massachusetts tenant organizer and advocate, wrote about the positive results of a housing stability program developed by a for-profit real estate company, WinnCompanies, in consultation with a tenants’ rights attorney, Jay Rose. McDonough noted that the program was adapted from a model used by housing advocates in Boston’s Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods.

Not only has the initiative produced “eye-popping drops in tenant evictions,” McDonough wrote, but it also particularly benefits low-income subsidized households, supporting them in efforts to qualify for increased subsidies and lower rents. Such efforts matter for health, he said, noting that research shows there are significant adverse health consequences of being behind on rent, such as maternal depression and increased child hospitalizations.

McDonough added that the initiative is also helping landlords—it’s costing WinnCompanies $2,000 per tenant household, instead of the $4,000 to $8,000 it was costing them to evict a tenant.

“As a former hard-boiled tenant advocate, an innovation that puts tenants, landlords, and governments all on the same side of a table feels magical,” he wrote. “Folks working on the social determinants of health would do well to pay attention to preventing tenant evictions, and to learn and propagate these powerful innovations.”

Read the opinion piece in Milbank Quarterly: Good News on Social Determinants of Health through Preventing Tenant Evictions