This story was originally published in Affordable Housing Finance.

Many families prioritize paying the rent over receiving medical care, according to a national survey by Enterprise Community Partners.

The new poll found that 54% of renters surveyed have delayed medical treatment because they couldn’t afford to pay it. This includes skipping preventative routine check-ups (42%), seeking treatment when sick (38%), and buying over-the-counter medications (35%).

Laurel Blatchford
Laurel Blatchford

“No one should have to choose between paying rent and paying for health care,” said Laurel Blatchford, president, Enterprise Community Partners. “And yet, thousands of people make that difficult trade-off every day. That’s wrong. By working closely with health-care organizations, we’re creating ways for renters to afford the health care they need.”

The situation is even worse among severely rent-burdened respondents, people paying more than 50% of their monthly income for housing. Enterprise found that:

· 83% of these rent-burdened respondents reported prioritizing paying rent before anything else, compared with 1% prioritizing health-care costs.

· Nearly half (45%) have not followed a treatment plan provided by a health-care professional because they couldn’t afford it, compared with 34% of all renter respondents.

· Nearly one-third (31%) of severely rent-burdened respondents delayed a routine check-up because they couldn’t afford it, compared with 23% of all renter respondents.

· Extremely rent-burdened respondents reported low satisfaction rates with housing-related factors that impact their health, including adequate access to outdoor spaces (47%) and air quality (38%).

· 89% reported that financial stress is the issue in their lives most detrimental to their mental health. At the same time, 92% of medical professionals reported that when they advise their patients to reduce their stress, patients say finances are the biggest source of stress.

· Every one of the 500 medical professionals surveyed reported that at least some of their patients have expressed concerns about affordable housing, with 31% of those professionals reporting that at least one quarter of their patients have expressed concerns about having an affordable place to live. This number jumps to 42% among medical professionals with a larger low-income patient population.

· Every one of the 500 medical professionals surveyed reported that at least some of their patients have expressed concerns about affordable housing, with 31% of those professionals reporting that at least one quarter of their patients have expressed concerns about having an affordable place to live. This number jumps to 42% among medical professionals with a larger low-income patient population.

· Nearly 95% of lower-income renters said that rent is their most important bill, but 78% of medical professionals think their lower-income patients would prioritize their medical bills over rent.

· 44% of medical professionals believe a lack of accessible health care hinders the health of lower-income communities, and less than half (48%) of lower-income respondents are satisfied with health care accessibility where they live.

“Whether it’s housing that is poorly designed or maintained that makes its residents sick, stress from needing to move often or skipping needed care and medication in order to make rent, our health is inextricably linked to home,” said Brian Rahmer, vice president, health and housing, Enterprise. “This survey is the first to carefully document how these challenges affect both renters and medical professionals, and will help both the health and the housing sectors collaborate to improve lives. This interdependence between health and housing must remain at the forefront of our collective health equity efforts.”

The survey is part of Health Begins with Home, a national Enterprise initiative to harness the power of affordable homes to create healthier families and stronger communities. The initiative convenes cross-sector partners to promote health as a top priority in the development and preservation of affordable homes and to elevate homes as an essential tool for improving resident and community health.

Enterprise conducted the survey in partnership with Wakefield Research. The online renter survey polled 1,000 U.S. adult renters, 500 of whom have household incomes at $50,000 or under. The online medical professional survey polled 500 U.S. medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, and physicians’ assistants.

This story was originally published in Affordable Housing Finance.