Housing is Healthcare and Creates Healthy Communities

NJ One of States Working With Hospitals to Develop More Supportive Housing in the State

The Urban Institute has published Affordable Housing Investment: A Guide for Nonprofit Hospitals and Health Systems.

This Urban’s Institute guide can help nonprofit hospitals and health systems that are interested in investing in affordable housing development projects.

This new resource is of timely interest for those of us in New Jersey working to end homelessness.

The New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) is working directly with hospitals to develop more supportive housing throughout New Jersey. The $12 million Hospital Partnership Subsidy Pilot Program was created after the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) released research suggesting that providing supportive housing leads to health care and government cost savings.

The NJHMFA Hospital Partnership Subsidy Pilot Program provides an example of a program meeting current community needs. For years, providers understood that people experiencing unsheltered homelessness utilize emergency department services at an unusually high rate.

Through improved accuracy of homeless service data (HMIS) and connection of that data system to hospital databases, communities have been able to identify high frequency users of hospital systems and target housing resources and services to end their homelessness and decrease costly use of emergency services. 

Pilots of innovative partnerships with hospital systems have spread to communities across the state including Camden, Middlesex, and Hudson Counties. NJHMFA’s launch of the Hospital Partnership Subsidy Pilot Program will take these efforts to a new level involving healthcare partners in efforts to end homelessness in a new way. 

NJCounts 2019 found found 8,864 men, women and children, in 6,748 households, experienced homelessness across New Jersey. ?Of this total homeless population, those experiencing chronic homelessness 1,462 persons, in 1,351 households, identified as chronically homeless might especially benefit from housing created through Hospital Partnership Subsidy Pilot Program.  The chronic homeless represented 16.5% of the total homeless population counted on January 22, 2019 through NJCounts.

The new partnerships with local hospitals and homeless service providers highlight both the critical importance of new resources to end homelessness and the need for increased collaboration between a variety of sectors. Providers are working in their communities to build coalitions of partners emphasizing the foundational nature of having a place to call home. 

And the theme of this year’s Congressional Reception is Opportunity Starts at Home: Building a Necessary and Secure Foundation for Healthy Communities.

The Congressional Reception took place in Washington, D.C. on July 24, 2019.  This Federal Policy Priorities of the Congressional Reception focused on a few key areas including Housing and Services, Medicaid, Affordable Homes, Fair Housing, and Housing Development.

Attendees at the Congressional Reception heard from speakers that highlighted that housing is a right, housing is health care, and housing creates healthy communities. The following Policy Priorities relate to hospitals investing in affordable housing:

  • Medicaid – We request that our elected officials oppose any replacement of the Affordable Care Act that eliminates Medicaid expansion which assists in ensuring that people experiencing homelessness receive critical healthcare services. Medicaid provides health insurance to parents/caretakers and dependent children, pregnant women, and people who are aged, blind or disabled.

According to the Urban Institute’s publication, “State and local policies are also highly influential to any possible housing strategy. Each state operates its own Medicaid program, and many have unique waivers that may expand what is allowable under the law.”

  • Affordable Homes – We request that our elected officials protect and expand the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program to help connect families to areas of opportunity with access to good schools, well- paying jobs, healthcare and transit. Vouchers have proven to reduce child poverty, stabilize families, and contribute to healthy communities. Fully funding vouchers in use, increasing the number of vouchers, and incentivizing state and regional voucher administration are essential in ensuring accessible and affordable homes for all Americans.
  • Housing Development – Low Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit) – We request that our elected officials expand and improve the Housing Credit to better target resources to households with the greatest needs and to increase the availability of safe and affordable housing. The Housing Credit is responsible through financing for nearly all of the affordable housing built and preserved since the program was authorized through tax reform in 1986.

Low Income Housing Tax Credits can be used to develop affordable housing in partnership with hospitals.

By working to protect Medicaid expansion, protect and expand voucher funding and expand and improve the Housing Credit program, New Jersey’s elected officials in D.C. can support potential housing and affordable partnerships that will create healthy communities.

The Urban Institute concludes that

“Nonprofit hospitals and health systems have a unique opportunity to become key agents in addressing housing needs for their patients and communities, particularly through investment in affordable housing development and rehabilitation. Homelessness and unsafe, unstable, or unaffordable housing can significantly contribute to poor physical and mental health; and, more important, housing interventions can be platforms for addressing a host of community health needs.”