Advancing the Value of Housing and Health Collaborations to Improve the Lives of Vulnerable Populations

Increased recognition in the healthcare sector of the pronounced interplay between health outcomes and adequate and affordable housing is spurring collaboration among housing and health industries to identify synergies of engagement. Urban Institute’s recently released report, Emerging Strategies for Integrating Health and Housing presents six case studies that provide solid evidence and real world examples of the promising successes of cross-sector collaboration to improve the health of vulnerable populations. As pioneers in of health and housing partnerships, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF) and its members understand the importance of the evidence and lessons shared in this report to expanding collaboration. Looking to their mission to leverage service-enriched housing to promote economic opportunity and mobility to the residents they serve. As momentum grows in this space, we are encouraged by this burgeoning evidence that supports the tenacity of our members in using housing as a platform to improve health outcomes.

Urban’s report examines emerging interventions that integrate health and housing services, with a focus on interventions where the healthcare industry has taken the lead. From a nationally recognized children’s hospital facilitating access to affordable housing for local families; to collaboration between a Federally Qualified Health Center and a nonprofit housing organization to co-locate health services with affordable rental housing; these case examples demonstrate comprehensive and holistic strategies that have the potential to be sustained, expanded and replicated. In addition, Urban researchers conducted 30 expert interviews to help highlight the common features that resulted in the success of each of these projects. The lessons learned reinforce many of the experiences SAHF members have had in engaging with healthcare partners, including those outlined in our recent Path to Partnership report. This included the value of braided funding through both private and public sources; identifying expected and unexpected allies; and the challenges yet importance of data sharing and outcome measurements. In addition to the evidence of success, provides an important look at select initiatives that focused in part on families with children. To date, a substantial amount of research and subsequent interventions have focused on a formally homeless individuals and those who are considered ‘high utilizers’ of the healthcare system. While homeless individual and high utilizers are a critical element iof this work, the added focus on children and families helps to address upstream causes that can help prevent a new generation of ‘high-utilizers,’ aligning with the priorities of many SAHF’s members.

Several themes highlighted in Urban’s report were also articulated at SAHF’s recently held Medicaid and Affordable Housing Roundtable. With support from the Kresge Foundation, this convening brought together senior leadership of SAHF’s members with state Medicaid leaders, state housing finance agency directors and philanthropic stakeholders to discuss real-world challenges and practical opportunities, fostering collaboration to improve the health of vulnerable populations. Focused on finding common ground between leaders in the Medicaid and Affordable Housing fields, this roundtable identified potential alignment among these distinct programs, and fostered a deeper understanding of the drivers, constraints and opportunities facing each sector, especially at the policy level. As SAHF works to advance the value proposition of housing as a platform for improved health and well-being, we are eager to build off these collective efforts to continue to create innovative solutions and unique partnerships that have the potential to improve the lives of vulnerable populations across the nation.