Spotlight Exclusives

How Housing Matters: An Important Conversation

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

Earlier this week the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Office of Policy Development & Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Building Museum convened the “How Housing Matters” conference in Washington, D.C.  The conference sought to expand the national housing conversation, and explored the ways in which housing can serve as a platform for education, economic opportunity and health.

OOTS was pleased to see two important speakers at the event HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius talk explicitly about poverty.  Said Donovan, “We۪re deciding now what the future of this country is going to look like, whether we invest or not in people in poverty.”  Sebelius added, “Do we find ways to leverage resources or do we retreat and leave a group of our citizens on the sidelines?”

Other speakers and panelists included top researchers, practitioners and government officials.  Among those participating:

  • Nancy Andrews, CEO, Low Income Investment Fund
  • Raphael Bostic, assistant secretary, Office of Policy Development and Research, U.S.Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Xavier Briggs, associate professor of sociology and urban planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Derek Douglas, special assistant to the president on Urban Affairs, the White House
  • James Riccio, director, Low-Wage Workers and Communities Policy Area, MRDC
  • Dr. Megan Sandel, research scientist and pediatrician, Children۪s Health Watch
  • Julia Stasch, vice president, U.S. Programs, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Michael Stegman, director of Policy and Housing, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The conference builds on the MacArthur Foundation۪s five-year, $25 million research initiative to explore “How Housing Matters to Families and Communities.” The initiative invests in rigorous research on the impact of affordable housing on social and economic outcomes. Two major components of the initiative are: (1) an interdisciplinary research network composed of experts in housing, child development, and other disciplines, to explore how housing matters to young children; and (2) a competitive research program to investigate housing effects in multiple domains.

To keep the conversation alive, Spotlight is collaborating with the MacArthur Foundation on an exclusive commentary series that highlights the intersection of housing and the three topics addressed in the conference: health, economic opportunity and education.  In yesterday۪s introductory note, Stegman noted that during a period of “fiscal constraint at all levels of government, building an evidence base and understanding the implications for policy are more important than ever if we hope to meet our nation۪s goals for healthy, safe, and economically secure families and communities.”

You can find links to the rest of the commentaries in the series as they are posted here.  New pieces will appear periodically between now and December.  The first piece, posted Wednesday, is titled “Helping the Doubly-Disadvantaged: The Role of Neighborhoods in Health.”

Also stay tuned for video clips from the conference in Spotlight۪s multimedia section, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out when each new commentary appears.

Posted by Mike


Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn’t always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and their impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or

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