Case Study: The Planning Office of Urban Affairs

The Planning Office of Urban Affairs is a nonprofit social justice ministry that strives to create vibrant communities through the development of high-quality affordable and mixed-income housing, where people of modest means can live with dignity and respect in homes they can afford. The Planning Office has over 2,900 units of affordable and mixed-income housing across Eastern Massachusetts, and provides homes for more than 11,000 people, most of whom are low-income families and individuals, including the elderly, people with disabilities, people with multiple chronic conditions and those that have experienced homelessness. Many of the Planning Office’s residents have MassHealth or are dual-eligible beneficiaries with both Medicare and MassHealth. The Planning Office is focused on building partnerships with health entities in the Boston area.

Key Findings: Though the Planning Office has not yet entered into formal collaborations with health care entities, it is increasingly developing partnerships with organizations that provide other critical services to its residents, including management services at its properties serving individuals who have experienced homelessness as well as one serving as a safe haven for victims of human trafficking in Boston. In total, 16 Planning Office properties have full or part-time resident service coordinators through third party contracts with property managers or social service providers. These resident service coordinators can also collect standardized data about resident needs.  Planning Office properties can capitalize on this opportunity by establishing data collection protocols.

Key Opportunities: The Center recommends that the Planning Office:

  • Prioritize increasing its internal capacity including hiring mid-level staff who can lead efforts to enhance the Planning Office’s understanding of resident needs by gathering additional information and devoting senior staff’s time toward building relationships with health entities.  This will bring high value to health care entities.
  • Strengthen its value proposition by becoming more expert in health care programs serving low-income people in Massachusetts, such as the state’s Accountable Care Organization (ACO) program for MassHealth (Medicaid) members in which provider-led organizations are paid based on care outcomes rather than on the volume of services provided. ACOs are required to conduct an assessment of each enrollee’s needs, including health-related social needs, and whether the enrollee would benefit from receiving community services like housing stabilization to address those needs.
  • Closely monitor spaces where critical health care conversations are taking place, such as the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Health, to identify relevant initiatives and viable partnership opportunities. The latter, for example, has a Community-Based Health Initiative (CHI) in which it mandates that health care facilities contribute to a fund or implement their own project connected to the state’s six Health Priorities: social environment, built environment, housing, violence and trauma, employment, and education.

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