Housing Virginia has begun working with key partners to collect, assimilate and distribute information from relevant statewide and regional resources that inform stakeholders about the connection between housing and health.
Our first Housing and Health connections project is made possible through the support of the Williamsburg Health Foundation, that serves the three jurisdictions of the City of Williamsburg and James City and York Counties. Though still in its preliminary data gathering stage, this research aims to look at health indicators in relation to neighborhood and housing conditions as well as demographic and socio-economic indicators within the population. This project will utilize mapping among other tools to help citizens and policy makers more easily see how these two issues areas intersect. Housing Virginia will be holding a series of local forums early in 2017 to release its findings and identify ways in which housing policies need to respond to health impacts and vice versa. One simple example of this is the senior population. Many aging Virginians want to “age in place” but the housing they are living in has challenges in both its design and location. Intentional housing policy and program shifts can help to address this mismatch.
A growing body of research is making the connection between health outcomes and environmental factors like housing and neighborhoods, opening up opportunities for the housing and health sectors to work together to improve outcomes for individuals and families.
In a study by the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, for example, the impact of housing and neighborhood conditions on health was brought into focus by revealing concentrated pockets of wealth and poverty in Richmond. The maps they produced gave a clear picture of the stark health disparities between these communities through the lens of life expectancy. The most shocking finding of this study was that there was a 20-year difference between life expectancies between two Richmond neighborhoods located only 5 miles apart.
The Housing Virginia regional study for Williamsburg will go beyond looking at just life expectancy. Some of the data points being researched include the isolated senior population (number of adults over 65 living alone), the neighborhood’s connectivity and walkability, the type of housing stock available within the community and food accessibility, among other factors. All of these data points are mappable by census tract so that local service providers and practitioners can see which neighborhoods need the most targeted outreach.
Housing Virginia hopes to expand this research with other localities and health foundations interested in developing housing and health maps for their region. If you are interested in working with Housing Virginia on this research for your area, please contact email@example.com for more information. Also, don’t miss our session on this topic at the Governor’s Housing Conference, titled “Research-Based Policy Solutions in Housing and Health” on Thursday afternoon.