Research and News Roundup:
May 2024

Mary Ann Priester

Senior Management Analyst
Mecklenburg County Community Support Services

The Research and News Roundup is a monthly blog series that features a curated list of recent news and research related to housing instability, homelessness, and affordable housing. Together, these topics provide insights about the full housing continuum and provide community stakeholders with information about emergent research, promising practices, and innovative solutions related to housing and homelessness.

This month’s Research and News Roundup features an overview of mental health and housing instability, guidance on how health care systems and hospitals can collaborate with communities to address homelessness, and a recent analysis assessing office space to housing conversion potential for 83 major cities including Charlotte.


Exploring the Link Between Housing Stability and Mental Health

For both renters and owners, mental health is significantly impacted by housing stability. Stable and affordable housing has the potential to improve mental health but housing instability and affordability stress can exacerbate mental health issues. Recent research suggests that housing instability and long-term housing affordability stress can negatively affects social, emotional, and mental functioning and worsen existing mental health symptoms. Reducing housing cost burdens can alleviate some mental health challenges, but accessing stable housing remains difficult for those with serious mental illnesses. Discrimination in housing and unaffordability of options contribute to this challenge. This article highlights the impact of housing instability on mental health and provides examples of policies and programs that support mental health through the provision of housing and supportive services.


How Heath Systems and Hospitals Can Help Solve Homelessness

In May, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness released new guidance on how health systems and hospitals can more effectively care for people experiencing homelessness and support the work to prevent and end homelessness in the communities they serve. Homelessness has a profound impact on health outcomes and health and homelessness are inextricably linked with homelessness exacerbating health issues and health issues increasing risk for homelessness and housing instability. This guidance document outlines six strategies for addressing homelessness, including delivering care outside of traditional medical facilities, partnering with non-health organizations, improving data systems and sharing, promoting affordable and supportive housing, engaging in homelessness prevention, and advancing health equity. The document provides practical resources for implementation for each strategy, emphasizes the necessity of collaboration with community partners and individuals with lived experience of homelessness, and stresses the importance of prioritizing health equity to ensure that all individuals receive adequate care.


Which Cities Would Benefit Most from Converting Offices into Housing?

Cities across the United States are experiencing high rates of commercial vacancies while at the same time facing significant housing shortages. To address both issues, many local governments have begun exploring opportunities to convert vacant office spaces into residential units. A Conversion Disposition Index (CDI) has been developed to identify which cities might be most suitable for office to residential unit conversions. The CDI considers factors such as office market distress and housing supply need. According to this index, of the 83 major cities and places included in the analysis, Charlotte ranks 9th highest for office space conversion potential. Adaptive reuse of office space has the potential to not only increases housing stock but also revitalizes downtown areas that have been impacted by office space vacancy. This article provides several strategies local governments can use to facilitate adaptive reuse of office spaces including reforming land use ordinances, updating building codes, streamlining permitting processes, and offering tax incentives.


Addressing Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s goal of reducing homelessness and ensuring access to safe, affordable housing requires integrated and innovative strategies that span the housing continuum. Exploring the Link between Mental Health and Housing Instability provides insights into the impact of housing instability and mental health and explores opportunities and resources that can address both mental health and housing instability concurrently. The health systems and hospitals guidance document outlines ways these entities can provide the most effective care for people experiencing homelessness and support the communities they serve in the work to prevent and end homelessness. The office conversion analysis evaluates office space conversion to housing potential and highlights Charlotte as a community with high conversion potential. It also outlines strategies that can be implemented locally to facilitate adaptive reuse of office space. Together, these innovative solutions related to housing and homelessness can inform local strategy to address the housing needs of all residents in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.