BMC Launches Community Investment – The Bay State Banner
The Boston Medical Center announced a $6.5 million investment initiative this month to support affordable housing in the city and track how health care systems can lower medical costs for families by improving housing security and community health over a five-year period.
Although the Massachusetts Department of Public Health requires hospitals across the state to invest in community health, BMC will be the first hospital to invest in affordable housing.
“There’s no better predictor of health than where you live, whether you can afford to buy your home and live in a stable, good-quality home,” said Megan Sandel, MD, MPH, BMC pediatrician and one of the main directors of the initiative. .
Through its initiative, BMC will invest in a diverse group of community organizations and property developers in the neighborhoods of Roxbury and Dorchester, where a large percentage of its patients live.
These investments include $1 million to Pine Street Inn and the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program to create a housing stabilization program; a $1 million interest-free loan and $400,000 operating grant to support a new healthy food market in a new development in Roxbury; and $800,000 over four years to rehabilitate 35 Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation housing units for people with mental health issues on Waldeck Street in Fields Corner.
“Supporting affordable housing is the perfect complement to the medical care we provide at BMC,” BMC President and CEO Kate Walsh said in a press release. “Too often we prescribe medication for a family when what they need just as much for their long-term health is a prescription for stable housing.
According to the press release, BMC intends to reinvest loan repayments, equity fund returns and tax credits from the initiative into affordable housing for Boston.
BMC data shows that 25% of patients admitted to hospital are homeless and that one in three families live in precarious housing or are at risk of eviction.
Dr Sandel, who has studied the relationship between housing insecurity and health for 20 years, said unstable housing was linked to a wide range of health problems, including asthma, lead exposure and depression, as well as the choice between paying for drugs or rent.
“Our goal is to be able to look at this on many levels by tracking the health of the community and seeing how housing partners will have more capacity,” Sandel said. “Finally, we want to see how it can reduce healthcare costs for our patients by creating healthy communities.”
BMC’s community partners in the affordable housing initiative include the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston Public Health Commission, Education and Research at Northeastern University, Nuestra Comunidad Community Development Corporation, The Community Builders, Madison Park Community Development Corporation and the Healthy Neighborhood Equity Fund.
“What’s present in the neighborhood is also very important,” Sandel said. “Jobs, transportation, healthy food options, fitness and nature spots. We increasingly want to be able to invest directly in the community.
The $1 million interest-free loan will go to Good Food Markets to build a supermarket at Bartlett Station, which is currently under construction by Nuestra Comunidad and Windale Developers, and is expected to add 323 units of affordable, market-priced housing to the Dudley Zone square.
BMC’s $400,000 operating grant will support the market for four years to sell fresh produce and create jobs in the neighborhood.
“This market will hire locally, ensure food is healthy and affordable, and have a cafe to sit down and eat prepared healthy food,” Sandel said. “It’s something that’s missing in Dudley Square right now.”