Housing and Health Partnerships

Place matters, and in the last few years, research has increasingly demonstrated that where you live can have a dramatic impact on your physical and emotional health. This message was echoed throughout the day-long symposium, Home Remedies Connecting Housing and Health For Stronger Communities, sponsored by Housing Virginia on July 11.  Attended by housing professionals as well as health care experts, the agenda included research from doctors and healthcare professionals and shared best practices on how to engage the healthcare industry in housing for at-risk patients.

This forum is part of a larger effort by community development practitioners to address all the elements needed to create healthy, sustainable communities. They include safe, decent affordable housing, walkable neighborhoods, open space for play and recreation, access to transit and jobs that enhance skills and create opportunities for advancement.

As anchor institutions in the community, hospitals and clinics realize the need to extend themselves beyond their walls to adequately address the health and well-being of their patients. This has led to the creation of some exciting partnerships with housing developers and human service providers. From Phoenix to Cleveland to Pittsburgh and Richmond, healthcare institutions and insurers are investing in the provision of housing, from LIHTC development, to rental subsidies for permanent supportive housing. In some instances, housing is co-located with healthcare facilities. And the results from these partnerships show a dramatic drop in patient healthcare costs.

In our area, we have wonderful resources like the Northern Virginia Health Foundation’s excellent mapping tool Mapping Opportunity in Northern Virginia. This allows the user to view household data on race, income, educational attainment, access to transit, healthcare and fresh foods in individual census tracts. The data give us a clear picture of the needs on the ground, but do we have the tools to create these healthier, more sustainable communities?

In May, Kaiser Permanente announced that they would make a $200 million investment in a Thriving Communities Fund to tackle housing instability and homelessness. We hope this announcement will bring other healthcare providers to the table. As we know, housing is the platform upon which household and individuals become stable and thrive. As federal investment in housing is reduced, the healthcare industry should consider investments in housing – a key social determinant of health. In our work to advance a housing agenda in Northern Virginia, let’s consider how we can form partnerships with these valuable anchor institutions in our communities.