Case Studies

Where Health and Housing Meet  

Promising strides are being made in the health and housing industries to assist low income and underserved populations, but ask just about any expert in either field and they will agree that despite the close interconnection between them there is much more collaboration that can be done. Healthier people are better able to maintain stable housing, and people with stable housing are better able to maintain their health. But with so much work to be done within each industry, reaching outside their walls takes the kind of time and dedication that understaffed, underfunded, and overworked teams frequently aren’t able to commit to.

In 2017, Community Catalyst's Center for Consumer Engagement and Health Innovation was engaged by the Housing Partnership Network (HPN) based on our deep experience building consumer and community leadership to transform the American health system. Together we explored how HPN can help its members promote better health outcomes for residents and families by creating partnerships that integrate and connect the systems for housing and health care, including providing recommendations from consultants at the Center.

Leading Community Organizations Partner for Change

Housing Partnership Network (HPN), a business collaborative of 100 of the nation’s leading affordable housing and community development nonprofits, believes that health, education and economic opportunities begin with stable, affordable homes. According to data collected annually by HPN from our 94 members, over 5,050 affordable housing properties currently serve 550,000 low-income individuals. Of those individuals, over 100,000 residents may require extra assistance because they are elderly or have special needs such as disabilities or conditions resulting from being formerly homeless, veterans or victims of domestic abuse. This only scratches the surface of the residents who need additional support due to chronic illness.

According to the most recent Center for Disease Control data, low-income individuals suffer from a 50% higher prevalence of multiple chronic conditions and 100% higher prevalence of behavioral co-morbidities than the average American. Low-income communities are especially costly to the healthcare system, with chronic illness driving over 85% of overall health spending and the majority of provider expenses relating to just 30% of the population.

The US Health Care System Today

Americans understand that the US health care system is broken, providing unequal access to health care services, which can be of poor quality, expensive, or both. At the same time, it has become widely accepted that health is not entirely dependent on clinical services, but rather on a broad set of factors. These so-called social determinants of health include education, the built environment and housing. 

As the health care system shifts from a fee-for-service system to value-based health care, health entities are recognizing the need to look outside their walls to address these social determinants of health. However, health systems and hospitals readily admit that doing so falls outside their expertise. They seek trusted partners who can help them address local needs beyond the medical services they provide. Affordable housing organizations, many with existing relationships with social services agencies, are well-suited to be invaluable partners in this work.

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

World Health Organization

Based on learnings from deep dives into 4 HPN member organizations, and work with organizations in 40 states across the US, the Center created a set of recommendations for organizations to develop policy and programs for investing in housing as a key determinant of health, raise awareness for their organizations, and become more familiar with health care entities in their regions. Those recommendations, and four HPN member case studies are presented on the following pages.

General Recommendations: Approaching Health Players for Partnership

Case Study: CommonBond Communities

Case Study: Mission First Housing Group

Case Study: Cinnaire

Case Study: The Planning Office of Urban Affairs

Please contact us for further information. We look forward to communicating with you about how we can help your organization achieve its goals.