What is the state of research on housing's impact on health?

Find an answer to that question in a policy brief entitled "Housing And Health: An Overview Of The Literature” published on June 7th in Health Affairs, the leading journal of health policy thought and research.

Written by Lauren Taylor, this interesting brief outlines and evaluates available literature and research including examples of observational and interventional studies dealing with the impact of housing on health. The author reviews literature supporting housing’s impact on health through four pathways: housing stability, quality and safety, affordability, and neighborhood.

In her section on Policy Implications, Ms. Taylor writes about the role that private businesses, lenders, and investors can play. Banks, CDFIs and other commercial entities, she says, “should consider themselves potential anchors for community revitalization (or market opening) projects,” and cites the work of HNEF and Build Healthy Places Network as “especially instructive.”

The research and literature reviewed in this brief is informative and critically important for all who are concerned with making more equitable opportunities for affordable, safe, quality, and stable housing in healthy neighborhoods.

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HNEF evaluation team gets $450,000 to study hospital's community investments

Concerned about the social determinants of health and of housing in particular, Boston Medical Center (BMC) – an HNEF I investor – recently announced its $6.5 million investment to support a range of local housing initiatives, including funding for HNEF to study the hospital’s community investments.

Announcing the new initiative, BMC’s President and CEO Kate Walsh said, “Too often, we prescribe medicine to a family, when what they need just as much for long-term health is a prescription for stable housing. This investment remedies that and saves cost to the health care system in the process.”

Read the release

CLF's healthy neighborhood work gets major boost from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has announced a $4.3 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson (RWJF) to continue its pioneering work to help create healthier neighborhoods in Massachusetts. The grant will support CLF’s ongoing research into the root causes of health disparities in low-income communities, the impact of development on those communities, and efforts to improve health outcomes through targeted investments.

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What does it take to attract investment in neighborhoods undergoing transformation?

On Monday, December 4th, that question was explored, and HNEF was featured on Marketplace, a business news program broadcast by National Public Radio. Senior reporter Dan Gorenstein came to Boston and Chelsea to look at one community where HNEF has invested. He spoke with the people behind HNEF and with those who are experiencing Chelsea’s renaissance.

Listen to the story: Investors make a bet to lift Boston-area neighborhood out of poverty

HNEF discussed as unique financial resource

Kathy McGilvray, MHIC Director of Investment, and Sarah Barnat, President of Barnat Development, joined other experts on a panel at the National Housing and Rehabilitation Association’s annual Fall Forum on November 7th. Kathy and Sarah gave an overview of HNEF and a recent HNEF investment – the Holmes at Beverly – a new mixed-use, mixed-income being built next to the Beverly Depot commuter rail station. Their panel was entitled, “Unique Financial Resources Improve Bottom Line and Enhance Tenant of Life.”

See slide deck of presentation for details

"Together in Boston"

The Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, which bills itself as the world’s largest green building conference – came to Boston on November 8-10. The conference is run by the U.S. Green Building Council, the organization that developed the LEED rating system.  CLF research director Vedette Gavin and CLF senior advisor Maggie Super Church participated on panels that discussed “Driving Equity” and “Value Creation Through Health Promotion.” Former President Bill Clinton gave a keynote address.

Hospitals can help build healthy communities through partnerships and targeted investments

How can hospitals support both margin and mission through investments in the social determinants of health, such as safe and affordable housing, healthy food, and stable employment? In their article for the Grantmakers in Health August newsletter (“Margin and Mission-Related Investing: How Hospitals Can Help Build Healthy Communities”), Dr. Megan Sandel and Maggie Super Church discuss these questions and argue that hospitals and health care systems can help build healthy communities through more targeted use of their investment capital.  

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Groundbreaking held for HNEF's Bartlett Station project in Roxbury

On Wednesday, August 2, the developers of Bartlett Station held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate new economic opportunity generated by this transformative project. Two buildings are currently under construction – one, which contains the 28 rental apartments (of a total of 60) and retail space supported by HNEF’s investment of $2.9 million, and another that will provide market and affordable homes to new homeowners. The ground floor retail space will be occupied by a grocery store tenant, providing access to fresh and healthy foods for area residents.

Bartlett Station is notable for: its scope, the number of jobs being created, the percentage of contracting jobs going to minority business enterprises, the number of jobs filled by workers of color, women, and Boston residents, and for the transformative impact this project will have in one of Boston’s most important neighborhoods.

Read the full story

HNEF project in Beverly breaks ground

TOD Development will bring 67 units of new housing to formerly vacant downtown parcel    

On Wednesday, June 14, Governor Charlie Baker joined state housing and transit officials, local municipal officials and private sector development partners to break ground on 67 mixed-income, transit-oriented rental housing units adjacent to the Beverly Depot Commuter rail station.

110-114 Rantoul St., as the project is presnetly called, also will include ground floor retail/commercial space. It is being built on a formerly vacant site at 112 Rantoul Street and is being developed by Barnat Development.

The development will create 16 workforce housing units affordable to middle-income households, representing the first major shovel-ready redevelopment property under the Baker-Polito Administration’s “Open for Business” Real Estate Asset Leveraging (REAL) Strategy and an investment of MassHousing’s $100 million Workforce Housing Initiative.

HNEF is also supporting the project with a $4.9 million investment. In addition to MassHousing and HNEF funds, Beverly Barnat is being financed by Boston Private and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston.

A new way of thinking-- measuring outcomes to build and finance healthy communities

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Nonprofit Finance Fund have just launched their new book, “What Matters: Investing in Results to Build Strong, Vibrant Communities.” With a foreword by former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, this pathbreaking book is a compilation of essays that explores what it takes to reorient social programs and funding to achieve desired outcomes. The traditional focus for funding has been on activities and outputs, but, the authors argue, this model no longer works. Measuring and accounting for the benefits of investment will yield far better results in building healthy communities and satisfying investors and other stakeholders. Achieving this shift in focus is not easy and requires collaboration among the social, business and public sectors. But that shift clearly is gaining momentum across sectors and across the country.

Maggie Super Church, CLF Ventures, has a chapter in this book: Investing in Health From the Ground Up – Building a Market for Healthy Neighborhoods, in which she states that, “In this growing and dynamic market, there is clearly enormous opportunity to drive investment toward interventions that improve population health.” She poses the question: “why it is so difficult to finance the development of healthy communities when the benefits to people, communities, and the economy are so profound?" Read her chapter and find out why.

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Health as more than just the 'absence of disease'

Bridging Health & Community has just published its new report, Fostering Agency to Improve Health, Twelve Principles key to the Future of Health. Written by Pritpal Tamber & Bridget B. Kelly, co-founders of Bridging Health & Community, the report “seeks to change how we define health and how we approach health so that it goes beyond health care and public health to embrace fostering community agency.”  The authors advocate for a broader definition of health to mean more than just ‘the absence of disease.’

According to the authors, their “mission is to describe the field of practice that bridges how health systems and communities can approach ‘health.’” They define the field through a set of twelve principles.

Included in the report is an abstract of Maggie Super Church’s presentation, “Trying to find community-centric business models,” about HNEF and its progress and challenges at the July 16 2016 meeting of the Creating Health Collaborative.

See the report

"2017 Sharing Knowledge to Build a Culture of Health"

That was the title of last week’s conference, convened by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in collaboration with AcademyHealth, which brought together a broad range of experts to explore what it takes to create a Culture of Health. Held in Louisville, Kentucky, panelists and participants discussed the role that race, the environment, public policy, the health care establishment, and others play in creating health equity. Topics included the importance of cross-sector collaboration and partnerships, innovative research and new approaches, and what will it take to advance social cohesion and grow opportunity to achieve health equity in the current sociopolitical environment. Maggie Super Church was there, representing HNEF and CLF Ventures.

Take a look Louisville’s Culture of Health Prize Story

Want to know more about what Culture of Health means, why it matters, and what it will take to get there? Click here

Local data for better health – the 500 Cities Project

On December 7th, CLF Director of Research Vedette Gavin attended a meeting in Dallas, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute, convened to formally introduce data from the 500 Cities Project and explore how communities might use it to create a culture of health.

The 500 Cities Project is collaboration between the CDC, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the CDC Foundation. The project marks the first time that health behavior and outcome data has been made publically available at such a local level for communities across the US. It has paramount implications for the power of the Healthy Neighborhoods Research Study. The focus of the study is to understand how investing in new development projects in urban neighborhoods impacts the lives and health of people living less than 1 mile away. And locally it has paramount implications for the power of the Healthy Neighborhoods Research Study

For a synopsis of the conference and links to the 500 Cities Project and valuable Massachusetts data

"Neighborhood Development and Investment Strategies to Improve Health"

On Monday, October 31, Maggie Super Church, representing CLF Ventures, spoke at a standing room only session at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Annual Meeting in Denver. APHA’s theme for this year’s meeting was "Creating the Healthiest Nation: Ensuring the Right to Health." More than 12,000 people attended the conference.

In her presentation, titled “Neighborhood Development and Investment Strategies to Improve Health,” Maggie talked about how health outcomes are emerging as a critically important “fourth bottom line” for community investment.

Many factors, she said, are driving this growing interest: the explosion of health care costs; the scarcity of public support for affordable housing, transit, parks, and community facilities that contribute to the building blocks of healthy communities; and the alarming rise in obesity and chronic disease. These factors are focusing national attention on the built environment’s role in shaping health outcomes.

Even modest changes to the built environment can drive changes in health outcomes. Maggie explained how HNEF is designed to invest in high impact projects with potential to transform neighborhoods, strengthen community and environmental health, and promote regional equity while providing attractive returns for investors.

See abstract of presentation

HNEF project investment in Braintree has official groundbreaking

Landing 53, a Braintree transit-oriented real estate development (TOD) with 172 new apartments and 12,000 square feet of retail space held an official groundbreaking ceremony on September 30th at the site, which is already under construction. For this project, HNEF provided $5 million in equity gap financing.

HNEF chose to invest in Landing 53 because it met the screening criteria needed to qualify: It’s conveniently located close to public transportation and it will add workforce housing, create jobs, enhance the environment with new pedestrian walkways and other amenities, and has the potential to improve the health of the community and its residents.

Landing 53 has been in the works for three years and has been a major priority for the town, which spent $2 million to improve the area with underground utility lines and improved street lighting. The property has been underutilized, with old, semi-vacant buildings. The new development will revive the neighborhood and spur economic growth consistent with the town’s stated mission of promoting sustainable development.

See press release

The Boston Foundation boosts HNEF with $1 million investment

On October 5th, HNEF's sponsors -- the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation and the Conservation Law Foundation proudly announced the Boston Foundation $1 million investment.

To date, HNEF has attracted $7 million in subordinate capital from public and philanthropic sources, including The Kresge Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and now the Boston Foundation, which will unlock an additional $23 million in private capital. Through this blended capital structure, the fund sponsors seek to demonstrate the ability to achieve both financial returns as well as environmental and community benefits.

“The Boston Foundation has long been a proponent of neighborhood development with health and wellness in mind,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the foundation. “We have demonstrated our support through millions of dollars of investment in the Fairmount Corridor and Dudley Square neighborhoods. This investment of $1 million should enhance the already important work of the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation and the Conservation Law Foundation to create more transit-oriented developments in Boston and across the Commonwealth.”

See press release