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Affordable Housing Models and Recovery

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Connection, support, sobriety, employment, and quality of life—these are all significant outcomes for people in recovery. Recovery, being unique to each person, warrants a range of housing options for people, whether they are transitioning from homelessness, a treatment facility, or even their own home. Continuums of affordable housing models from Housing First to recovery housing are invaluable to people in recovery in all walks of life.

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing models include Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), Housing First, and recovery housing. PSH is community-based housing targeted to extremely low-income households with serious and long-term disabilities. It combines permanent housing with case management and wraparound care. Similarly, Housing First helps individuals and families sustain permanent housing quickly, regardless of prior engagement with services. Research shows that this approach often fits within what people experiencing homelessness are seeking and there is documented success. A summary of Housing First research is described by the National Alliance to End Homelessness in its report, Housing First for Families: Research to Support the Development of a Housing First for Families Training Curriculum. Positive outcomes have been found in homelessness prevention and in successful transitions from shelter to independent living. It has also worked well with several specific subgroups, such as families and women.

Recovery Housing

Recovery housing approaches differ in that they are characterized by alcohol-and-drug-free living settings, but similar in that they involve peer support and other addiction recovery aids. Recovery housing can range along a continuum of four non-linear levels described by the National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR). These levels ranges from peer-run establishments like Oxford Housing (level I), to monitored sober living homes (level II), to supervised housing (level III), and residential treatment housing (level IV). Regardless of the type of housing, all programs tend to require readings and attendance at Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Programs typically also require involvement with the community and employment, in addition to other person-specific services. Research on communal housing settings known as Oxford Houses found that people who enter recovery housing—when compared to people returning to their community directly after treatment—typically have decreased rates of substance use and incarceration. They are also more likely to have increased rates of employment, according to a 2010 study on recovery outcomes of people living in sober living houses.

The Ohio Council of Behavioral Health and Family Services Providers and the Center for Social Innovation produced a related report, Recovery Housing in the State of Ohio: Findings and Recommendations from an Environmental Scan – 2013 (PDF | 3 MB). Although it is specific to Ohio in terms of findings and policy recommendations, the report includes a broad overview of recovery housing, and research on recovery housing. Overall, the report indicates a need for public awareness around recovery housing and substance use on multiple levels—local, state, and national. Policy recommendations are included with each finding.

Key findings include:

  • Current variations in recovery housing definitions, language, and understanding pose challenges to the efforts to advance it as a model.
  • Effective recovery housing requires a range of recovery supports that are often the most difficult to fund.
  • Various mechanisms exist to support recovery housing. However, the availability of funds and ability to access them varies significantly.
  • Recovery housing providers require support in connecting and collaborating with established systems of care rather than creating a parallel system.
  • Within local service networks, some recovery housing providers experience perceived and actual barriers to collaboration.
  • County and local community contexts influence the development and expansion of recovery housing.

Despite many advocates who recognize the need for client choice between transitional housing options and housing that requires a clean and sober living environment, it can be challenging to integrate recovery housing into the continuum of affordable housing options. Ultimately, safe and healthy living environments are needed and important for people in recovery. As recovery is unique to each individual, a range of housing options that support recovery and are both available and affordable is paramount.

Learn more about Housing First at the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Access more behavioral health and homelessness resources.

Last Updated

Last Updated: 09/26/2022