Providence, RI – Governor Dan McKee and RIHousing announced the award of $150,000 in funds to help Rhode Island develop a pipeline of sustainable, affordable and service-enriched housing developments that address specific healthcare and affordable housing needs in Rhode Island communities that require it most. The funds will help RIHousing, the state’s housing finance agency, to establish a Housing, Health and Equity Partnership with a broad range of entities and community organizations across the state.
“This work is timely and needed,” said Governor Dan McKee. “The intersection of housing and healthcare is important to our state and its residents. Where people live directly affects their well-being and future outcomes. These grant funds will help us to broaden the affordable housing conversation and partnerships to include healthcare leaders, funders, local community groups and others to further expand the available capital and commitment to affordable housing production.”
The grant funding comes from the National Council of State Housing Agencies’ (NCSHA) Healthy Housing, Healthy Communities (H3C) Partnerships initiative, made possible with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and technical assistance and expertise from the Center for Community Investment. Rhode Island is one of six grantees to be awarded grant funding and technical assistance to support partnership efforts with hospitals and health systems to expand financing for affordable housing. Grant funding will help develop strategic partnerships with hospitals and other health organizations to finance affordable housing.
“Safe, stable, affordable housing is foundational to better health outcomes,” said Carolyn E. Belisle, Managing Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI). “BCBSRI is excited to join this powerful partnership. The work ahead aligns with our commitment to finding new ways to finance and develop supportive housing and services that meet the needs of all Rhode Islanders. The grant creates a unique opportunity to strengthen the role of healthcare systems in addressing critical housing needs.”
H3C funding will leverage existing healthcare system investments in the housing sector, including a newly negotiated $4 million investment from BCBSRI to LISC Rhode Island. RIHousing will utilize grant funds to develop a health, housing and equity plan of action building on the work that five of the state’s Health Equity Zones (HEZ) have initiated, in partnership with LISC Rhode Island, healthcare providers, for and non-profit organizations and community groups.
Established by the RI Department of Health, HEZs are community-led, multi-sector collaboratives that work in the state’s most under resourced neighborhoods to address persistent health disparities and strengthen social determinants of health, including housing. The five partnering HEZs are in the six cities with the highest child poverty rates in the state: Central Falls, Newport, Pawtucket, Providence, West Warwick, and Woonsocket.
To ensure that local communities are effectively and highly engaged in the planning process and to ensure a deep commitment to racial and social equity, steering committee partners will work closely with the lead or “backbone” organizations from each of five HEZs.
“We’re excited to be part of this important effort to establish a formal housing and healthcare sector collaboration in Rhode Island,” said Jeanne Cola, Executive Director of LISC RI. “LISC fully understands that housing insecurity has emerged as the most impactful social determinant of health as healthcare costs have soared, vacancy rates have plunged, and incomes have remained stagnant. We are committed to leveraging our HEZ work, statewide outreach, and decades of affordable housing investment to help Rhode Island establish meaningful collaborations between housing and healthcare entities to broaden investment opportunities for housing production and services.”
The H3C grant aims to leverage the role RIHousing, LISC RI and BCBSRI to attract significant health institution involvement and elevate community-level leadership in addressing the housing affordability crisis in Rhode Island. Community-level leadership and engagement will play a key role in the effort partnership.
“RIHousing looks forward to facilitating an inclusive planning process to assemble and align resources across healthcare, housing, support services, and community-based providers to finance new affordable housing units in up to five Health Equity Zones (HEZs) across the state,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “We are committed to creating a durable and replicable model that will leverage healthcare sector investments statewide to significantly expand Rhode Island’s supply of affordable and supportive housing while creating more healthy households and communities.”
By the end of the planning process, RIHousing will have developed a_ Housing, Health, and Equity Partnership Plan_ that specifies financial and other commitments the agency and its partners will make to develop or preserve affordable housing in a manner that improves community health and advances social and racial equity. A critical outcome of this effort will be the development of a diverse pipeline of healthcare supported affordable housing projects within the targeted HEZs. Additionally, the Housing, Health and Equity Partnership will work to establish a vehicle through which new projects can be identified and advanced within additional HEZs, cities and towns statewide.
Learn more about the NCSHA’s H3C Partnership initiative here.