By Sonam Vashi
Over the next five years, affordable housing nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners will put $250 million to support collaboration between health and housing nationally, promoting healthcare as a core part of affordable housing development.
In Atlanta, Enterprise plans to give up to $10,000 each to community development nonprofits that have ideas for implementing “scalable housing-based health solutions,” with a focus on nonprofits working to provide supportive housing services.
“We’re focusing on systemic changes rather than single-time grants,” said Meaghan Shannon-Vlkovic, vice president and market leader for Enterprise’s Southeast market.
The connection between housing and health outcomes is well documented; stable and affordable housing can help families afford more nutritious food and relieve financial and psychological stress. Better quality housing can reduce risk of lead poisoning, asthma, and chronic illness.
When Medicaid-covered residents moved into affordable housing in Portland, Oregon, they “used more primary care by 20 percent, had fewer emergency department visits by 18 percent, and accumulated lower medical expenditures by 12 percent,” the Center for Outcomes Research and Education analysis stated.
“Many of our healthcare partners are not reaching the health outcomes that they want to, from a cost and a health and wellbeing perspective,” said Mary Ayala, the Maryland-based nonprofit’s national initiatives program officer. “That’s where they’re starting to look for other solutions.”
Enterprise’s national initiative plans to focus on four main areas:
- Researching the connection between stable and affordable housing and health outcomes
- Awarding grants to local nonprofits to fund housing and community health programs
- Providing technical assistance with resources, data, policy, and best practices
- Connecting capital from healthcare organizations, investors, and social impact funds to affordable housing development
“We’re trying to look for solutions outside the doctor’s office and more toward patient relationships,” said Ayala. “We’re trying to lift up housing as a core foundation for creating health in our communities.”
In Oakland, California, healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente recently announced it would move into the housing field by partnering with Enterprise to invest in preserving an affordable housing complex, providing loan capital, and working toward ending homelessness in the Bay Area. Shannon-Vlkovic pointed to Kaiser as an example of what other community development nonprofits might look toward for solutions.
“One of the things we want to do is build on the great work that we see community partners doing already,” Ayala said. “We’re aiming to let the local organizations tell us what their needs are.”
Applications for a $10,000 grants are open to Atlanta-area community development nonprofits through February 15, with decisions announced in mid-March.
This article was updated on 2018-01-29 at 12:38 p.m. to clarify Kaiser’s role in investing in an Oakland affordable housing complex.