Emerging Strategies for Integrating Health and Housing

Principal Investigator
Urban Institute
Urban Institute

Overview

Elaine Waxman and Corianne Scally of the Urban Institute Research Hub have released a new study examining emerging interventions that integrate housing and health services for low-income people, focusing on interventions where health care organizations have taken a significant leadership role. The research pairs over 30 expert interviews with six in-depth case studies to paint a detailed picture of emerging strategies and their potential to be sustained, expanded, and replicated elsewhere.

Findings

The team identified the following themes to building effective, sustainable partnerships around housing and health: 

  • Allies are everywhere. Finding an organization with a shared mission and goals is key to successful partnerships.
  • Strong cross-sector collaborations must navigate siloed funding streams, braid together public and private funding, and create innovative ways to avoid the “wrong pocket problem.”
  • Integrating community engagement practices into program design and organizational structure increases the likelihood that projects will be embraced by the community.
  • By persevering to bridge data systems across sectors, partners can develop more targeted interventions, preserving limited resources and maximizing impact.
  • Measurement matters. Without understanding impact, partners will face difficulty expanding, sustaining, or replicating their work.

The team also assembled detailed case study reports on six promising collaborations:

  1. A City Takes Action: Boston, Massachusetts
  2. Everything in One Place: Washington, DC
  3. Tapping into a Collective Vision: Stamford, Connecticut
  4. Connecting a Community: Austin, Texas
  5. Good Neighbors Make Better Partners: Columbus, Ohio
  6. A National Insurer Goes Local: Markets nationwide

Implications for Policy and Practice

Lack of safe, affordable housing can contribute to poor physical and mental health, higher use of emergency and hospital services, and increased public health care costs. The housing sector has historically led the charge to create healthy homes and living environments. Only recently, with increased attention on the social determinants of health, have health care leaders embraced interventions that address nonhealth factors such as housing. 

Health and housing professionals are pooling resources and expertise to meet shared goals of improving individual and population health, particularly within disadvantaged communities and at-risk populations. Yet, despite the growing interest in collaboration, there has been little evidence to inform how to build and sustain meaningful cross-sector partnerships. Breaking down entrenched silos is not easy, but the insights and perspectives in this report help pave a path for policymakers, city leaders, and health and housing providers to work together to address housing as a social determinant of health.

Published
in
Urban Institute