About the Series

This series of reports explores the role of law in housing equity and exploring innovative uses of law to improve health equity through housing.

The six reports, Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Policies for Action Program, are based on extensive literature reviews and a robust process of semi-structured interviews with thought leaders and people who are taking action in housing policy and practice. This series focuses on how laws and legal practices related to housing have influenced the availability of quality, affordable housing in socially and racially inclusive neighborhoods—and how the policies that work can be coordinated and scaled up for maximum national impact. The reports were also discussed in a three-part webinar series sponsored by the Center, the National Center for Healthy Housing, and the National Low-Income Housing Coalition in 2020.

The Reports

Report 1 – A Vision for Health Equity in Housing

This report reviews old and new evidence about health, health equity and housing, to make the case for “health equity in housing” as a top goal of the movement to create a Culture of Health in America. 

Report 2 – A Systems Approach: Legal Levers for Health Equity through Housing

The second report describes some of the factors that make housing in the US a complex system, and establishes a model of the key legal elements, or levers, in that system. Our model of five legal domains that interact with and influence health equity in housing aims to pull together in one picture the key factors many have identified – and typically work on – separately. The five domains include: Increasing the Supply of New Affordable Housing; Maintaining Existing Housing as Affordable, Stable, and Safe; Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing; Enhancing Economic Choice for the Poor; and Governance.

Report 3 – Health Equity in Housing: Evidence and Evidence Gaps

This report outlines what we know and don’t know about the impacts of our legal levers, and how they are influencing health equity in housing. It takes a “cold-eyed view” to clean the slate of misconceptions and unwarranted confidence in existing legal levers, to help us better structure future efforts as the experiments they are. We identify 30 legal levers across our five domains, and review the evidence base for each.

Report 4 – Creative People and Places Building Health Equity in Housing

In Report 4, we share what we learned from interviews with housing practitioners and leading researchers about the use of legal levers for health equity in housing. We share 10 themes that emerged from our 47 interviews, including interconnectedness; the persistence of segregation; the need for more enforcement and resources; thoughts about the use of litigation to achieve health equity in housing; and the failure of law to protect the housing needs of the average person.

Report 5 – Governing Health Equity in Housing 

The fifth report in our series focuses on governance as an approach to the challenge of achieving health equity in housing. It starts with the theoretical perspective offering a description of governance as a multi-level, multi-actor practice that embraces complexity and uses an adaptive strategy of experimentation and learning that is measured by results. The report then illustrates a successful practice of effective governance in one of fair housing’s greatest success stories, the achievement and maintenance of health equity in housing in Oak Park, Illinois.

Report 6 – Health Equity through Housing: A Blueprint for Systematic Legal Action

The sixth and final report in the series offers guidance for action based on our research. We propose one overarching recommendation, the adoption of a systematic policy experimentation approach to achieving health equity in housing. We explore this approach through a case study of lead poisoning prevention efforts in Rochester, NY. We then present six areas of housing law that are ideal for experimentation. They range in topics, including strengthening fair housing enforcement to reduce discrimination, and supporting residential stability. The report also contains an appendix with additional ideas for experiments that emerged through our research and interviews.


Support for this project was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Policies for Action Program. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.