How nonprofit hospitals and health systems are getting involved with housing.
Although investing in housing construction and rehabilitation is relatively new for most hospitals and health systems, a new guide argues that hospitals’ institutional assets, focus on health outcomes, and position as anchor institutions make them well-positioned to invest in affordable housing.
The Urban Institute surveyed nonprofit hospitals to learn more about current practice and motivations, considerations, and challenges they face in addressing housing needs of their patients and communities.
“To our knowledge, our survey was a first attempt to systematically understand how nonprofit hospitals and health systems are approaching housing-related activities, including investments,” says Kathryn Reynolds, policy program manager for the Research to Action Lab at the Urban Institute.
Overall, 45 nonprofit hospitals and health systems participated in the survey. Due to the small number of study participants, some experiences and insights may not have been captured, and findings are not generalizable and representative. “However,” Reynolds says, “these findings resonated well in our subsequent roundtable discussions with experts and hospital administrators and gave us some sense of the information and tools that may be needed to encourage more nonprofit hospitals and health systems to consider housing investments.”
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Key findings include the following:
Many case studies highlight health systems and hospitals that have made early, innovative investments in community development and housing.
“However, little is known about the nonprofit hospitals and health systems that are exploring or starting to implement housing-related projects, or what could help motivate the hospitals and health systems that are not involved to make housing investments,” Reynolds says. “Further, federal, state, and local funding to create, preserve, and operate affordable apartments falls far short of the need across the country, leading to a shortage of affordable and quality housing, especially for low- and moderate-income families.
“Non-profit hospitals and health systems, as anchor institutions rooted in place and with missions to improve community health, are well-situated to contribute funding to alleviate this problem,” she says.
The Urban Institute publication provides guidance to hospitals and health systems that wish to invest in affordable housing development projects. The resource shares actionable, research-informed strategies and examples of how nonprofit hospitals and health systems can help fill the financing gap that often prevents affordable housing from being built or rehabilitated. The guide describes key steps to consider when planning and implementing an investment strategy:
Three concrete ways in which hospitals and health systems can support a housing investment project, include:
There are three things health care executives should know, according to Reynolds: