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Health and social predictors of applications to public housing: a population-based analysis
  1. Aynslie M Hinds1,
  2. Brian Bechtel2,
  3. Jino Distasio3,
  4. Leslie L Roos1,
  5. Lisa M Lix1
  1. 1Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  2. 2Program Policy Integration, Interagency Council on Homelessness, Family Violence Prevention and Homeless Supports, Alberta Human Services, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  3. 3University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Aynslie Hinds, Department of Community Health Sciences, S113—750 Bannatyne Avenue, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada R3E 0W3; umhinds0{at}


Background Residents of public housing are often in poor health. However, it is unclear whether poor health precedes residency in public housing. We compared the health of people who applied to public housing to people who did not apply and had similar socioeconomic characteristics.

Methods Population-based administrative databases from Manitoba, Canada, containing health, housing and income assistance information were used to identify a cohort of individuals who applied to public housing and a matched cohort from the general population. Conditional logistic regression was used to test the association between a public housing application and health status and health service use, after controlling for income.

Results There were 10 324 individuals in each of the public housing applicant and matched cohorts; the majority were women, young, urban residents, and received income assistance. A higher per cent of the public housing cohort had physician-diagnosed physical and mental health conditions compared to the matched cohort. Physical health, mental health and health service use were significantly associated with applying to public housing, after controlling for individual and area-level income.

Conclusions Applicants to public housing were in poorer health compared to people of the same income level who did not apply to public housing. These health issues may affect the long-term stability of their tenancy if appropriate services and supports are not provided. Additionally, preventing ill health, better management of mental health and additional supports may reduce the need for public housing, which, in turn, would alleviate the pressure on governments to provide this form of housing.


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  • Twitter Follow Jino Distasio at @jinodistasio

  • Contributors AMH, LML, BB, JD and LLR contributed to the study conception, design, interpretation of the data, drafting and critical revision of the manuscript. AMH contributed to the data analysis, interpretation of the data, and writing and revision of the manuscript. All authors participated in editing and revising the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by funding to AMH from Research Manitoba (PhD Dissertation Award). LML was supported by a Manitoba Research Chair from Research Manitoba. Thanks are owed to Heather Prior for data extraction from the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy Population Health Research Data Repository.

  • Disclaimer The results and conclusions are those of the authors and no official endorsement by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, Manitoba Health, or other data providers is intended or should be inferred. Data used in this study are from the Population Health Research Data Repository housed at the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, University of Manitoba, and were derived from data provided by Manitoba Health, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Manitoba Jobs and Economy, and Manitoba Housing and Community Development.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not obtained.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was obtained from the University of Manitoba Health Research Ethics Board. Data access was approved by the Manitoba Health Information Privacy Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.