Cities Advancing Affordable Housing to Improve Health Outcomes

February 27, 2019 - (4 min read)

As cities around the country deal with local affordable housing shortages, mayors and council members are realizing the problem is much more complex than putting a new roof over people’s heads.

Housing is now understood to be a vital determinant of a person’s success in life that affects health, access to education and upward mobility.

Given this, cities are now tasked with solving the affordable-and-healthy housing shortfall.

To that end, the National League of Cities (NLC) is partnering with NeighborWorks America to take six mayors and their community partners on a deep dive into this issue at a signature NLC learning on April 2 and 3, 2019.

The Mayors’ Institute on Affordable Housing and Health: Advancing City-Level Strategies to Generate Sustainable Solutions brings local leaders together for a solutions-oriented, peer-to-peer learning and capacity building experience exploring ways cities can advance affordable housing strategies that ultimately improve health outcomes.

The six participating mayors, selected through a competitive application process, include:

  • Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit, Michigan
  • Mayor Jorge Elorza, Providence, Rhode Island
  • Mayor Emily Larson, Duluth, Minnesota
  • Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Vancouver, Washington
  • Mayor Dan Rivera, Lawrence, Massachusetts
  • Mayor Sharon Weston-Broome, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

As a congressionally chartered, nonpartisan nonprofit, NeighborWorks America has built healthier homes and communities in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico by working in partnership with a network of nearly 250 independent, nonprofit organizations.

The six participating NeighborWorks organizations include:

  • One Neighborhood Development, Providence, Rhode Island
  • West Elmwood CDC, Providence, Rhode Island
  • One Roof, Duluth, Minnesota
  • REACH CDC, Vancouver, Washington
  • Lawrence CommunityWorks, Lawrence, Massachusetts
  • MidCity Redevelopment, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Experts from NLC and NeighborWorks America, along with faculty and partners, will explicitly link affordable housing strategies and neighborhood revitalization to health.

Participating mayors’ teams will include their housing and health staffs and community development partners. City teams will look closely at their respective strengths and weaknesses and discuss key areas ranging from affordability, homelessness, to the use of data and financing strategies.

As a prelude to the institute, NLC’s new publication “Affordable Housing & Health: City Roles and Strategies for Progress,” offers insights into how cities can consider holistic approaches to addressing housing-related challenges. It includes short examples of efforts in cities from across the country, including an emphasis on local strategies that inform our collective efforts.

To make these efforts successful, it is essential that city leaders align a shared vision with a diverse set of multi-sector partners to ensure the needs of all residents are being met.

Community-based nonprofit organizations, such as community development organizations, are vital partners for cities. These organizations respond every day to this critical challenge by developing affordable homes and working in partnership with residents to build thriving neighborhoods.

NLC’s goal in the coming months is to create a ripple effect by providing information and insights to ensure city-led planning efforts spur more comprehensive approaches – informed by residents and community-based organizations – to address health and affordable housing needs.

As part of this overall effort, NLC and NeighborWorks will explore a robust array of private-public partnerships, including with health stakeholders like hospitals and health plans, that offer great potential to diversify approaches that consider how home environments can either improve or prevent patients from achieving and maintaining good health.

By exploring the best interests of city residents and patients together, city leaders and health stakeholders can work together to leverage their respective assets to improve outcomes.

NLC and NeighborWorks America will also share best practices from the Mayors’ Institute, as well as additional lessons learned from the cities during the year of technical assistance that follows.

As our country continues to grapple with effectively addressing critical housing shortages, unhealthy home environments and neighborhoods, it will require the leadership and political will of city leaders, in collaboration with partners, to move beyond challenges and find solutions.

About the Authors:

SueP_readySue Pechilio Polis is the Director of Health & Wellness in the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.


Sarah Norman.jpgSarah Norman is the Director of Health Homes & Communities at NeighborWorks America.



LeahEttmansmall.jpgLeah Ettman is the Senior Associate of Health & Wellness in the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.