Housing Design That Advances Health

Applying trauma-informed principles, reducing social isolation, and encouraging active living—how housing can be designed to promote good health.

2 minute read

May 27, 2021, 11:00 AM PDT

By LM_Ortiz

Glenwood Green Acres, Philadelphia

Tony Fischer / Flickr

A little more than a year ago, the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a global pandemic and government officials across the country ordered residents to shelter in their homes. While there’s been significant progress in the fight against the coronavirus with the development of advanced health treatments and the growing distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, many people are still spending most of their time indoors. However, data from the National Center for Healthy Housing shows that homes are one of the most dangerous places to be. Nearly 40 percent of residences have at least one health or safety hazard, and these issues tend to be costly to repair.

Among affordable housing advocates and health professionals, it’s commonly understood that removing health hazards like mold or lead can positively affect a residents’ health and well-being, but there are other, less familiar ways in which affordable housing can be designed to promote good health.

Shaping Healthy Affordable Housing

Dr. Lynne Dearborn, an architectural researcher and professor of architectural design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studies how housing and residential environments affect health. Dearborn and Dr. Sherry Ahrentzen of the University of Florida recently studied the extent that Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC)—the largest source of funding for affordable housing—helps shape healthy homes. They did this by reviewing Qualified Allocation Plans, or QAPs, which states develop annually to establish eligibility for receiving LIHTC funds.

Dearborn and Ahrentzen found that most states offer incentives to developers who site affordable housing in neighborhoods that have amenities to improve healthy living, but rarely do they require it.

Also, while most states have a least one criterion for addressing indoor air quality in their respective QAPs, few ...

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