Post From Expert Insights
For low-income households, finding affordable homes in healthy communities is challenging. The attributes that make homes and communities conducive to good healthmake them desirable as well, leading to higher prices. Lower income families and seniors can be particularly vulnerable to the physical and mental toll of living in unsafe places with inadequate access to basic needs. Given the connection between health and housing, investments in housing should be viewed also as investments in people’s health and well-being.
Broadly interpreted, health serves as an overarching way to measure people’s well-being and quality of life. Health impact assessments (HIAs) are an effective tool for integrating health insight into Community Developmentinvestments. HIAs are a process to enhance policies in non-health sectors, such as economic and community development that support healthy communities. HIAs evolved from the awareness that many projects, policies, and initiatives are developed with no explicit health goals, yet they still directly impact the public’s health. So, HIAs offer a way to assess potential health impacts in an actionable way. HIA follows a six phase framework:
The recent Health Impact Assessment of the 2015 Qualified Allocation Plan for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits in Georgia identified how the state’s allocation of low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) can be strengthened to support health-promoting, affordable housing development. The HIA found that modest changes in affordable housing investment can directly improve the health status of the state’s most vulnerable citizens – helping up to 200 individuals per year live longer, healthier lives. Additionally, these investments could benefit young children, supporting better lifetime outcomes through reduced disease burden and higher achievement.
The HIA found that modest changes in affordable housing investment can directly improve the health status of the state’s most vulnerable citizens – helping up to 200 individuals per year live longer, healthier lives.
This HIA was conducted in partnership with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), to help the agency better understand how its housing finance decisions affect the well-being of Georgia communities. Georgia allocates $22 million in support of affordable housing development each year through low-income housing tax credits, allocated through the Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP). A grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, enabled the Georgia Health Policy Center (GHPC) to conduct the HIA. Input from a cross-section of stakeholders including government, housing advocates, and real estate industry developers informed this health impact assessment, which took a statewide perspective.
Overall, affordable housing investments were found to improve health and quality of life, and increase opportunity for Georgia residents. To capitalize on this gain, numerous opportunities were identified through research, analysis, and stakeholder input. GHPC researchers made recommendations to alter scoring criteria in the following areas:
Addressing any one of these topic areas alone may lead to improvements in health outcomes and behaviors. However, employing a comprehensive perspective that considers the entire set of QAP criteria would provide the greatest opportunity for affordable housing investments to improve health.
To date, more than one-third of the recommendations have been incorporated into the 2015 and 2016 versions of Georgia’s QAP. Other recommendations are the focus of longer-term discussions with partners in public health, building, housing agencies, and community development organizations. GHPC continues to partner with DCA and GDPH on integrating health perspectives into affordable housing development. An ongoing project is examining how HIA-informed changes in the 2015 QAP are influencing LIHTC project development in three communities across the state. Strategies for longer term monitoring and evaluation of housing policy outcomes related to health are also being developed, building on the original HIA.