JPB Foundation Funds Study of Affordable Housing-Based Services

The study will formally evaluate the benefits of greening and health-related interventions for affordable housing residents across 10 sites

July 25, 2022

The JPB Foundation has provided a sizeable grant to the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health to fund a three-year study examining the impact of social, environmental, and health-related services in affordable housing settings on residents’ health and quality of life.

The Columbia Mailman School is partnering with the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Enterprise Community Partners, Success Measures at NeighborWorks America, the Community Opportunity Fund, and Jonathan Rose Companies to undertake research at 10 Jonathan Rose Companies affordable housing properties. As institutional investors increasingly enter the affordable housing field as part of their growing commitment to ESG, the study aims to formally evaluate the co-benefits of green housing and a combination of social and health-related intervention components for affordable housing residents across different sites.

Social, environmental and health-related services in affordable housing settings are critical components of impactful affordable housing practice, yet robust research that demonstrates the measurable impact of such interventions on residents’ wellbeing is lacking. To begin to address this need, the partners created a multidisciplinary team of public health researchers and evaluators in the housing field in 2017 to explore Jonathan Rose Companies’ Communities of Opportunity model, which seeks to leverage housing as a pathway to comprehensive resident health and well-being. The primary goal of the team’s initial study design research, completed in 2019, was to develop the methods and study protocols necessary to evaluate the impact and cost-effectiveness of health and other interventions in affordable housing settings—an essential planning step for a larger-scale study. Building on the results of the study design work, the team will launch the first phase of a longitudinal study, entitled Ecological Study of the Comparative Health Effects of Housing-based Interventions, to implement and formally evaluate the benefits of the Communities of Opportunity model for affordable housing residents across different sites.

“We are deeply grateful to the JPB Foundation for their generous support of critical research that identifies the key components of high-quality affordable housing that foster resident and community health and well-being,” said Virginia Rauh, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. “We aim to create ‘Communities of Opportunity’ where residents have access to the resources they need to thrive, and through this research, provide the evidence for best practices to guide affordable housing providers and public health policy going forward.”

The focus of the study will be the Jonathan Rose Companies Communities of Opportunity model, which combines social and environmental impact investing in energy efficiency measures, decarbonization strategies, water conservation and resilience, and offers a range of housing-based interventions and amenities that make life better for residents. These include community facilities, outdoor spaces, fitness centers, computer labs, medical screening rooms that provide access to on-site medical care, communal kitchens, libraries, and on-site Resident Services Coordinators who connect residents to programs and services that meet needs and enable access to opportunity. The model embraces a process of mutually engaged co-production whereby residents, planners, and scientists have a voice and play a critical role in the design, implementation and sustainability of housing-based interventions.

“We welcome the opportunity to measure the impact of environmental factors on the health of affordable housing residents, and are grateful to the JPB Foundation for enabling this important work,” said Gary Adamkiewicz, Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Housing-based environmental interventions are a critical component of an impactful public health strategy, and this study will help yield data measuring the effects of environmental sustainability strategies on the health and wellbeing of these communities.”

“It is critical that we understand the impact of health and environmental interventions on the wellbeing of residents at affordable housing sites in order to ensure that leaders in the sector have the knowledge to implement services that really work,” said Nancy Birkmeyer, Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice. “As this area has been historically under-researched, the support from the JPB Foundation represents a key step forward that will allow us to better understand what strategies affordable housing practitioners, service providers, and investors should pursue to maximize benefit.”

The researchers will collect and analyze key health, well-being, environmental and community engagement data, which will provide the foundation for future research to assess the impact of stable, affordable, green housing and a broad range of resident services. The study will be carried out in collaboration with JRCo residents, and will be developed with significant input from community-based staff with direct, ongoing connections to residents. The researchers will conduct resident surveys and environmental monitoring at the properties to assess the positive health effects of environmental hazard reduction. Following the data collection phase, the researchers will analyze survey and environmental data and prepare an accessible summary of findings to share with the properties, residents, stakeholders and other interested audiences. The team will work with staff and residents to help them use the data and build on results to enhance programming and opportunity for residents.

“The study team is uniquely positioned to develop and translate research-backed insights into actionable strategies for the housing and community development fields. We value the continued support of The JPB Foundation in backing such vital research,” said Stephany De Scisciolo, Vice President, Impact, Evaluation & Population Health at Enterprise Community Partners.

We welcome the opportunity to draw upon our expertise in supporting the housing sector in evaluating its impact on health and well-being through participatory approaches that engage residents in the study process, said Maggie Grieve, Vice President of Success Measures at NeighborWorks America. “We look forward to building upon our work with our research partners, and appreciate the support of the JPB Foundation.”

“The mission of the Community Opportunity Fund is to improve the lives of residents of affordable housing by co-producing health, social services, education, culture, employment and recreation programs, and researching the impact of such programs with a view to impacting future policy,” said Dawn Mottram, Community Opportunity Fund. “By measuring the results of these initiatives, we aim to equip public policymakers with the data-driven insights they need to create communities of opportunity for all. We extend our deepest thanks to the JPB Foundation for their generous support, and are excited to continue our important work alongside our partners to develop research that supports this mission.”

“We are immensely grateful to the JPB Foundation for enabling this study, which will serve numerous stakeholders, including affordable housing sector providers, community management and staff, investors seeking to optimize their ESG outcomes, and, of course, residents at affordable housing communities who stand to benefit from enhanced social, environmental and health-related services,” said Jonathan Rose, President of Jonathan Rose Companies. “We hope that this will expand our understanding that housing not only enhances housing security, but comprehensively improves environmental sustainability and resident health and wellbeing. We are excited to collaborate with leading researchers to evaluate the impact of our efforts in the hope that our experience will guide the practice of industry stakeholders going forward.”