Homeownership status and risk of food insecurity: examining the role of housing debt, housing expenditure and housing asset using a cross-sectional population-based survey of Canadian households

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Fafard St-Germain, Andrée-Anne
Tarasuk, Valerie
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Abstract Background Household food insecurity is a potent marker of material deprivation with adverse health consequences. Studies have repeatedly found a strong, independent relationship between owning a home and lower vulnerability to food insecurity in Canada and elsewhere, but the reasons for this relationship are poorly understood. We aimed to examine the influence of housing asset, housing debt and housing expenditure on the relationship between homeownership status and food insecurity in Canada. Methods Cross-sectional data on food insecurity, housing tenure and expenditures, home value, income and sociodemographic characteristics were derived from the 2010 Survey of Household Spending, a population-based survey. Multivariable logistic regression models were conducted to estimate odds ratios of food insecurity among households of all incomes (n = 10,815) and those with lower incomes (n = 5547). Results Food insecurity prevalence was highest among market renters (28.5%), followed by homeowners with a mortgage (11.6%) and mortgage-free homeowners (4.3%). Homeowners with a mortgage (OR: 0.51, 95% CI: 0.39–0.68) and those without a mortgage (OR: 0.23, 95% CI: 0.16–0.35) had substantially lower adjusted odds of food insecurity than market renters, and accounting for the burden of housing cost had minimal impact on the association. Mortgage-free homeowners had lower adjusted odds ratios of food insecurity compared to homeowners with a mortgage, but differences in the burden of housing cost fully accounted for the association. When stratifying homeowners based on presence of mortgage and housing asset level, the adjusted odds ratios of food insecurity for market renters were not significant when compared to mortgage holders with low housing asset. Mortgage-free owners with higher housing asset were least vulnerable to food insecurity (adjusted OR: 0.18, 95% CI: 0.11–0.27). Conclusions Substantial disparities in food insecurity exist between households with different homeownership status and housing asset level. Housing policies that support homeownership while ensuring affordable mortgages may be important to mitigate food insecurity, but policy actions are required to address renters’ high vulnerability to food insecurity.
International Journal for Equity in Health. 2020 Jan 06;19(1):5