Brooklyn Affordable Housing First to Earn New Classification

To earn the brand-new designation, developers must commit to strategies for boosting residents’ physical activity and health.

Prospect PlazaNew York—A new affordable housing development at Prospect Plaza in Brooklyn is the first to bear a new classification known as “Active Design Verified” (ADV). To be ADV, a project’s developers must commit to active design strategies within a certain percentage of their portfolio. They also receive training and technical assistance from the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) and the Center for Active Design (CfAD), who created the designation.

Developed by Blue Sea Development, in partnership with Pennrose Properties, Duvernay + Brooks, and Rosenberg Housing Group, Prospect Plaza will include almost 400 units, a 24,000-square-foot grocery store and retail space, and a community facility. The development is comprised of five buildings across three adjacent blocks. Two of the buildings within the development have been completed thus far.

Key features of ADV include facilities for physical activity, well-designed stairs that encourage everyday use, infrastructure to support walking and biking and free, and low-cost programming to support resident health. A PHA/CfAD policy brief highlights a direct relationship between the design of affordable housing that promotes resident health and potential cost savings for developers, residents, and public and private health providers.

The value of active design is supported by various studies. In a pilot study done in the Bronx, the Icahn School of Medicine of Mount Sinai compared the health of residents at Arbor House, a 124-unit building with active design elements, with residents in a building without those features. Residents of Arbor House became more active; for example, 58 percent reported an increase in the number of stairs they climbed each week.

PHA/CfAD shared the policy brief recently in a letter to newly confirmed HUD Secretary Ben Carson. Secretary Carson and Congress will soon have to contend with 400,000 affordable housing units that are set to expire and low-income neighborhoods could become victims of anticipated budget cuts.