What Is Supportive Housing?

Supportive housing is just that: Housing plus support. Tenants have affordable apartments and easy access to whatever help they need to stay housed and healthy. They pay one-third of their income toward rent and get both a roof over their heads and on-site access to a support network of professionals to help them overcome the challenges that left them homeless.

Since its inception in the 1980s, supportive housing has become one of the most effective (and cost-effective) interventions ever devised to end homelessness among the most vulnerable: individuals and families coping with mental illness, trauma/abuse, addiction and chronic illness including HIV/AIDS.

Supportive housing residences are owned and operated by nonprofit organizations. The apartments they offer are high-quality and attractive, designed to enhance both tenant self-esteem and neighborhoods. Caring staff provide the type of support the rest of us get from friends and family: help with managing illnesses, getting an education, a job, a doctor’s appointment and a day-to-day routine.

Supportive housing is a common-sense solution to a seemingly intractable social problem. Though it was conceived as an intervention for homeless people living with mental illness, supportive housing now transforms the lives of homeless veterans, high-risk families, youth aging out of foster care and even grandparents raising grandchildren.

There are currently more than 50,000 units of supportive housing in New York, and that number continues to grow.

Community Impact

Supportive housing doesn't exist in a vacuum. Residences are located in neighborhoods rich with culture, community and commerce. As such, they're designed to either blend seamlessly with their surroundings or improve the overall look and feel of their neighborhoods. Housing providers often build on blighted blocks or rehabilitate unsightly buildings, which paves the way for neighborhood renewal. And because these buildings provide services to tenants and often feature front-desk security, supportive housing often leads to improved community safety and lower crime rates. Supportive housing residences are run by locally-based nonprofits that must remain accountable and responsive to their communities to stay in operation. For these reasons, studies have shown that supportive housing does not decrease and often increases property values.

Here are a few of the reports that relate to supportive housing's beneficial impact on communities:

Impact of Supportive Housing on Surrounding Neighborhoods, by Furman Center for Real Estate & Urban Policy, 2008.

Permanent Supportive Housing Impact Analysis, by Arch City Development and Urban Decision Group, 2013.

Our Neighbors, Our Neighborhoods, by City of Fort Worth, 2008.

And a few videos that relate to supportive housing's beneficial impact on communities:

Supportive Housing: A Good Neighbor A profile of three New York City supportive housing residences, produced by New York State Homes & Community Renewal with help from the Network.

Good Housing. Good Neighbors. A portrait of three New York City supportive housing residences, produced by the Network.

Follow these links to learn more about supportive housing and cost-savings. See the slideshow below to learn more about the basics of supportive housing.

Elements of Supportive Housing

Before and After Gallery

History of Supportive Housing

Youth Programs