Enterprise Community Partners Launches National Health Housing Initiative

The Maryland-based nonprofit plans to invest $250 million across the U.S. over five years as part of its Health Begins with Home program.
Laurel Blatchford

Enterprise Community Partners Inc. is deploying $250 million over five years to spur collaboration among the health, housing and community development sectors to develop and preserve affordable homes across the U.S in a new initiative called Health Begins with Home.

“Health Begins with Home highlights the next frontier in Enterprise’s work: fulfilling the potential of homes to improve the health of people and of entire communities,” Laurel Blatchford, Enterprise Community Partners president, said in a prepared statement. “We’ve long seen the undeniable economic and environmental power of home. We know that bold, focused efforts can significantly improve outcomes, as we learned from how our Green Communities Criteria dramatically expanded development of green affordable housing.”

The Columbia, Md.-based national affordable housing nonprofit will work with a broad group of partners to promote health as a top priority in the development and preservation of affordable housing. One of those groups is Kaiser Permanente, which recently announced a joint Enterprise-managed $85 million Housing for Health Fund in the San Francisco Bay Area and a $100 million national loan fund. Each of those funds will invest over the next 10 years to create and preserve housing, with a focus on Kaiser Permanente’s service regions in eight states and the District of Columbia. Enterprise and Kaiser Permanent each committed $50 million to the $100 million loan fund.

“Health Begins with Home is focused on making better health central to the work of affordable housing and community development organizations. More and more evidence shows that well-designed, affordable homes should be at the heart of addressing health challenges such as asthma, mental health and obesity,” Blatchford told MHN. “Affordable homes, particularly when they’re connected to quality health care, schools, jobs and transportation, support the health and well-being of residents and provides them a foundation for greater opportunity.”

Putting funding to work

One of the first investments from the new joint equity Housing for Health fund will be the $5.2 million acquisition of a 41-unit housing community in East Oakland, Calif., near Kaiser Permanente’s national headquarters. East Bay Asian Local Development Corp. (EBALDC) will ensure that the property, located in the San Antonio district of Oakland, is preserved as affordable housing and gets needed upgrades. EBALDC will also provide supportive social services to the residents.

“Housing security is a crucial health issue for vulnerable populations,” Bernard Tyson, chairman & CEO of Kaiser Permanente, said in a prepared statement. “Access to affordable housing is a key component to Kaiser Permanente’s mission to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve and to advance the economic, social and environmental conditions for health.”

Blatchford and Brian Rahmer, vice president of Health and Housing at Enterprise Community Partners, said the Kaiser Permanente investments are the type of funding they hope to replicate across the U.S. with the Health Begins with Home initiative.

“By bringing together the health and housing sectors, Enterprise can be a catalyst for a seismic shift in the industry,” Rahmer said in prepared remarks. “Our work with communities and partners is showing us how homes designed with health in mind and located in neighborhoods connected to quality health care, schools, jobs and transit can provide the foundation for better outcomes.”

Partnership Goals

Health Begins with Home will involve cross-sector partnerships among health systems, health insurers, housing developers, policymakers, public health associations, community development organizations, social impact investors and foundations.

It will be focused on four key areas:

  • Conducting research to learn and leverage the connection between quality, stable affordable homes and healthier outcomes;
  • Awarding grants to nonprofits to fund housing and community health programs and increase partnerships between housing and healthcare organizations;
  • Providing technical assistance;
  • Connecting capital from healthcare organizations, institutional investors and social impact funds to develop and preserve affordable, healthy and well-designed homes.

Image courtesy of Enterprise Community Partners