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A hustle to survive

CPHHS’ Kate MacTavish explores the issues and challenges in rural housing across America

The conversation around housing in America largely centers on urban families, leaving the economic and social issues surrounding rural housing unseen. Kate MacTavish, associate professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, explored the challenges surrounding rural housing in a webcast on February 3.  

“Hustle is what far too many families have to do in order to keep a roof overhead,” Kate says, adding that housing accounts for more than half of roughly 3 million rural families’ income.  

According to the Housing Assistance Council, about 21 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, and nearly 30 percent of them live in substandard housing.  

The high costs of living and inadequate housing for rural families can lead to an increase in homelessness and may cause families to cut back on essentials, including food, health care and more.  

Although research shows that rural housing options have improved over time and that homeownership is more popular and cheaper compared to urban homeownership nationwide, Kate says that these advantages are compromised in several ways, especially for low-income and minority families. She also says this advantage does not include the more than 7 million renters affected by the same issues as their homeowner counterparts. 

What’s throwing rural America in crisis? Kate says issues stem from diverging trajectories of growth and decline, home mortgage finance trends and shifts in federal support for rural housing. She explicitly highlights high-amenity growth that pushes out current residents, population decline, high-cost loans and the advancement of policy regarding affordability, construction and homelessness left mainly for non-profit organizations to address. 

“Do we really think that housing is a basic right or a basic need? And are we willing, as a society, or as communities, to step forward and try to ensure that we have housing available, instead of leaving it all up to the private sector?” Kate asks.  

To help change the system, Kate says that contacting non-profits related to housing is a great way to get involved, as well as voting. 

Watch “The Silent Crisis in Rural Housing” above or on the college’s YouTube channel. 

The Public Health Insider webcast series is a joint initiative hosted by the OSU Alumni Association, OSU Foundation, OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and OSU Center for Health Innovation. Future webcasts in this series include Making outdoors accessible for everyone: A novel partnership” on February 16, and “Living on the edge: Rapid social change and uncertainty” with CPHHS Professor Rick Settersten on March 2.  

Learn more and register on the OSU Alumni Association website. All three webinars will be available on the CPHHS YouTube channel approximately two weeks after each event.