The relationship between better homes and health been already been made clear in the East Lake Meadows public housing project in Atlanta, Georgia. There, decrepit public housing was torn down and replaced with sustainable, healthy homes. No one was displaced — tenants came back after the renovation. The result was that “crime went down and student performance and employment went up.”
All of this happened with an investment less than $200 million. “The only thing that changed was the housing.”
But Dr. Donald Schwartz, a director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, also argued that while these one-off projects are great, what’s really needed is a deeper planning approach.
For example, the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut Regional Plan, which is a highly influential regional planning framework, now has a health chapter, in part due to the foundation’s work. This can lead to more widespread efforts to reshape the built environment in the region to make it more walkable, and build healthier homes.
And RWJF is now funding Urban Land Institute’s Health Corridors program, which aims to retrofit the most unhealthy thoroughfares with big box stores and no opportunities for walking and biking, and make them more healthy for the people who have to live near them. “It’s about finding a real estate redevelopment strategy.”