Transit-Oriented Development Can Improve the Health of Entire Communities

November 14, 2018- SAHF members are committed to improving the health of vulnerable populations through holistic and innovative solutions. As we continue to push to create health equity through health and housing interventions, we are inspired by our members who leverage cross sector collaborations at the local and regional levels to improve health for low-income communities.

Last evening, Mercy Housing won a 2018 AHF Readers' Choice Award for one particularly innovative example of these collaborations at Mercy Housing Northwest’s Othello Plaza, a transit-oriented development (TOD) property providing 108 affordable homes to many families and over 95 children. Built adjacent to a light-rail station on surplus land that the regional transit system had acquired, the service-enriched homes offer easy access to Seattle’s job center and add to a flourishing community where residents can thrive. 

Othello Plaza serves as a great example of how TOD can help improve the health of entire communities. By designing neighborhoods that are centered around accessible and affordable public transportation options, individuals are able to access education opportunities, employment, grocery stores and healthcare.  In addition, TOD incorporates design elements that promote active transportation through bike share and increased walkability, which can help address specific health issues such as obesity.  TOD also creates sustainable communities that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through increased public transportation use, while also strengthening local economies.  Collectively, the elements of TOD can have generational impacts on low-income communities by creating healthier environments that foster opportunity and economic mobility.

Building quality affordable housing in proximity to public transit is an essential component of TOD, bringing together two critical social determinants of health in a meaningful and thoughtful way.  The growing validation of the role of the social determinants of health on impacting health outcomes has prompted stakeholders from typically siloed sectors to come together to identify innovative place based solutions that can improve health beyond healthcare alone, particularly in under resourced neighborhoods. TOD is a tremendous asset in this work, with many SAHF members working to develop properties next to accessible and affordable public transportation options. Mercy Housing’s Othello Plaza property in Seattle is a great example of such an endeavor.

Congratulations to Mercy Housing on their well-deserved award.

- Dr. Kamillah Wood, Senior Vice President, Health and Housing