Fair housing, equity, and well-being are all interconnected, with housing playing a central role by affecting so many of our life outcomes, including education, health, and wealth. Abt works every day to improve the quality of people’s lives around the world, not least of all through our work promoting safe and affordable housing.

April marks several key observances, from Fair Housing to National Minority Health Month, to Earth Day. We invite you to join us as we mark these observances. See how we’re working with communities and partners to advance fair housing, good health, economic opportunity, and environmental quality.

Fair Housing in Context

Decent, affordable housing; good schools and good jobs; safe neighborhoods; accessible transportation; healthy food, clean air and safe water—we all seek these things when looking for a home. Some people—because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or familial status—face overwhelming barriers to finding housing in neighborhoods that meet these basic needs. Being able to choose where one lives—to have access to resources that support a strong quality of life for one’s family—without facing barriers of discrimination is the heart of fair housing.

Abt helps communities develop policies to further fair housing through our Fair Housing Training and Technical Assistance work. Additionally, Abt played a critical role in the roll out of the 2015 Fair Housing Rule by assembling data sets to provide the foundation for a universal mapping tool and by developing and delivering HUD’s flagship training to state and local agencies throughout the nation. Furthermore, Abt continues to provide housing policy guidance to communities through its work with the NYU Furman Center to develop The evolving online guide provides extensive briefs, resources, and guidance on how to compile multiple housing policies into a comprehensive and balanced local housing strategy.


What is Fair Housing?

Years of disinvestment, redlining, and discriminatory practices have created barriers to safe housing, health, and well-being for people due to their different abilities, race, family status, national origin, sex, religion, and color. The federal Fair Housing Act requires communities to undo the harm of these practices by affirmatively furthering fair housing by not just eliminating housing discrimination but also by ensuring that all people, regardless of their personal characteristics, have access to housing in resource-rich neighborhoods, where there are quality schools, good jobs, abundant amenities, and efficient transportation.

The Fair Housing Act was signed into law by President Johnson on April, 11, 1968. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), under the Obama administration, laid out new rules for communities to comply with their obligation to further fair housing, taking a huge step toward accountability and action to undo local, public and private practices that create and perpetuate housing segregation. President Biden has recommitted to ensuring that “fair and equal access to housing opportunity exists for all.”


Fair and equal access to housing opportunity exists for all.

President Biden

Emergency Response, Disaster Recovery, and Fair Housing

When managing a disaster, communities have opportunities to respond and rebuild with fair housing and equity in mind. In a funding climate where local resources are few and in high demand, the influx of federal resources into a community provides a unique opportunity to invest in equitable response and rebuilding during a crisis. It has been well-documented that wealth gaps widen post-disaster—the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Responses that include equitable access to programs are a must for communities looking to further fair housing.

For example, Abt has been working with the City of Houston to overlay furthering fair housing in its Hurricane Harvey disaster recovery. Abt has been helping Houston plan and effectively use disaster recovery funds to affirmatively further fair housing by looking at historical patterns of segregation. This approach is helping stakeholders build back better so that all people have easy access to grocery stores, transportation networks, good schools, employment opportunities, and safe environments. Working with communities to ensure equity in their COVID-19 response is also a central focus of Abt’s Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG-CV) Technical Assistance.



Equity and Catastrophe: How Can Resilience Programs Support Vulnerable Populations?

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Vulnerable populations suffer daily from inequities in health, wealth, and education. These same people are then disproportionately impacted by catastrophes ranging from hurricanes to COVID-19, underlining the need for equity across race, gender, and income. Learn how Abt’s housing and resilience work is helping.

Education and Fair Housing

Children thrive when they live in a neighborhood with good schools, safe streets, and opportunities to learn and play. But these neighborhoods are out of reach for many families. Fair housing policies are designed to create diverse housing options in opportunity-rich areas. Abt works with HUD, the Department of Education, and other federal partners to support programs and initiatives that create communities where children can achieve their potential.

For example, moving to higher opportunity neighborhoods is a documented challenge for individuals and families with Housing Choice Vouchers. Our evaluation of the Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) program assessed the potential and actual access voucher holders have to these higher opportunity neighborhoods, and found that SAFMRs improve access. Further, we’ve found that low-income families with children who receive housing choice vouchers and move to higher opportunity neighborhoods via SAFMRs may achieve some gains in intergenerational economic wellbeing.

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Closing the Opportunity Gap: Housing and Education

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Income inequality. Housing affordability. Education achievement gaps. These social determinants of health can impact families over generations. How do we ensure families have the resources and capabilities they need to thrive? Abt has been investigating this question from two different angles.

Economic Opportunity and Fair Housing

The legacy of housing discrimination means that many communities —especially communities of color—have been left behind when it comes to developing wealth. Residential segregation has left some neighborhoods with fewer amenities and limited job opportunities, while discriminatory lending practices have prevented many families from owning homes. Addressing these longstanding economic inequities is a central goal of fair housing policy.

Our teams study the drivers of economic inclusion to help stakeholders design more effective policies, programs, and interventions. For Fannie Mae, we conducted video ethnographies with lower-income, first-time homebuyers to determine which mortgage-shopping support is most effective for these homebuyers. Our work to support HUD’s voluntary Family Self-Sufficiency program has helped low-income subsidized housing residents build assets and financial capability, and increase earnings.

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Actionable Strategies for Equitable Development Planning

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Equitable development plans ensure that proposed strategies reflect community priorities that safeguard local culture and affordability. This webinar, supported by JPMorgan Chase, features three Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) that completed planning processes rooted in equity to ensure capital reaches the most vulnerable communities and achieves the greatest impact.

Environment, Fair Housing and Well-Being

Housing quality is only as good as the environment that surrounds it. Fair housing principles dictate that people should have the opportunity to live in healthy environments, for personal health and for stability. Abt’s work on environmental justice and community resilience reinforces those principles and helps communities create healthy and stable living environments for their residents.

For example, we helped the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assess the impacts of a proposed rule to reduce the amount of lead and copper in drinking water. Our analysis found that children of color in households with low-incomes were at greater risk of exposure to lead through plumbing and lead service lines in many areas of the United States. These children also have higher levels of lead in their blood, and are likely to be exposed to lead through more pathways, such as lead paint. We found that the proposed rule would mitigate disparities in exposure by improving water treatments to reduce lead in drinking water. We also found that providing households with direct subsidies to help them replace lead plumbing or install filters could further mitigate health disparities.

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How Can We Improve Housing Resilience in the Face of Climate Change?

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Communities worldwide are grappling with the impacts of climate change, and local housing agencies and planners play a critical role in helping people adapt. Abt’s Colleen Moore discusses how researchers and stakeholders can address housing resilience to combat the effects of climate change.

Health, Fair Housing and Well-Being

Under the Fair Housing Act, people with disabilities are protected from discrimination in housing. Yet many people with complex health challenges—like substance misuse disorders, multiple chronic illnesses, mental illness, or disabilities—struggle to find safe, affordable housing options that meet their needs. This can lead to housing instability and homelessness—which can, in turn, lead to worse health outcomes. Abt works with partners in the health and human services sector to develop innovative strategies to integrate affordable housing and supportive services. For the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, we documented various housing models for individuals who experience housing instability or homelessness and opioid use disorder. Abt’s approach offered a systematic look at models that might aid individuals in their recovery, so that HUD and providers can use and evaluate them.

Related Projects and Reports:


Kids First: Systems, Health, and Family Well-Being

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Health. Food security. Opioids. Child welfare. When parents need support, the services they rely on instead sometimes impose unnecessary child separations. How can we help systems work together so families can stay together? Allison Hyra and Katharine Witgert have some suggestions.

Connect with Us

Fair housing practices can impact the lives of generations of Americans. As we partner with stakeholders at the federal, state and local levels, Abt’s teams are collecting evidence, providing insights, and shaping programs to bring these policy goals to life: to provide access to healthy, safe homes that support opportunities for all.

Are you working in these areas?