Poverty Pimping: The Effects of Affordable Housing on Public Schools

The average family earning minimum wage spends 141 percent of their income struggling to meet basic needs – food, shelter, clothing.
—Sherrod Brown

Across America, there is a population of students in school districts that are labeled as the “transient population” because of their family’s mobility rate.The mobility of students from school-to-school is primarily connected to affordable housing and access to employment, economic development and transportation.

For students, frequent mobility results in lowered-academic performance. Many of these students are called “test killers” because of their inability to retain learned information from changing school environments so frequently.

I remember when Atlanta, like many other major cities in the United States, began to close the housing projects. I believe the public perception was that we would see better performing schools and communities as a result. In part, we did to some degree. However, I believe that we also saw a widespread of students who were concentrated in one area being pushed out into other lower-income communities making the many problems masked in two or three failing schools to now many more.

What I’ve witnessed is much of what is discussed in Janet Currie’s article, Are Public Housing Projects Good for Kids? Janet’s article highlights that the benefits to low-income and affordable housing must include strategic steps towards community engagement that are then implemented to ensure that children and families have the ability to succeed.

How we intentionally engage all families and stakeholders to ensure student success will prevent us from continuing to fail families that need our help the most.

School performance is impacted by community performance. Communities that have high gang-related incidents, homicides and many other safety concerns lose out on parents who could benefit from school choice.

Families will travel for good schools but good schools should be a best practice in every community and not just those have the means to attend them.

Here are some things to consider:

  1. When passing by blighted homes and buildings, how many children are living in these conditions?
  2. What are living conditions really like for children living in poverty?
  3. What are the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual effects of homelessness on children?
  4. How does affordable housing play a role in generational poverty?
  5. Are schools effectively connecting to the communities they serve?

It’s important for not only educational leaders, but government agencies, politicians, business leaders and stakeholders to consider these things when making decisions about funding, resources and closing schools. Remember, every child that comes to school faces different dynamics from their living environment.

As the school’s main job is to teach children, we realize that there’s a need and a call for educators to support the social, emotional, mental, physical and cultural development of children while empowering families to continue best practices at home and within the community.

We cannot do this if we aren’t mindful of the impact of homelessness, displacement, gentrification, transportation which are all connected to the ability to obtain, maintain and qualify for affordable housing.


Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.

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