This week I am attending the ULI Fall Meeting in Chicago, and I’ll be posting on what I’ve learned here….
What is the link between health and development? Here at the 2013 ULI Fall Meeting in Chicago several sessions are trying to address it. Marilyn Taylor moderated a panel that included Ron Terwilliger, Peter Calthorpe and Bart Harvey, and she indicated that we can all identify the answers, but how do we develop our cities differently to be healthier and how do we institutionalize and monetize it?
Perhaps the first place to look is the affordable senior housing market. I attended a conference two weeks ago hosted by NCHMA where an affordable housing developer locates a medical office on-site as part of their senior affordable housing projects. The result for the developer has been measurable – by having a doctor on-site, residents are healthier and cost less to keep healthy. Since a lot of seniors rely twice on the taxpayer for housing and health care, this is very good policy to replicate.
But what about being in a walkable neighborhood? On the Congress for the New Urbanism’s Health Districts page, John Norquist is quoted about the value of simply being able to take a daily walk in the neighborhood as a major aspect recovery for vets returning from war. Apply that to seniors – not all seniors are frail; they deserve the ability to take walks in the neighborhood. There is no reason why senior housing developments need to be isolated on campuses when it is far better policy, and a savings to all of us, if they can live in a walkable setting. Senior affordable (and market rate) developers should look at their line item for transportation, vans and drivers, and consider the tradeoff of locating in a walkable neighborhood that allows their residents to be more independent.
A few years ago I saw a movie. I forget the title, but it was set in a mid-size English city, and the two central characters were single elderly men living in a senior housing building within walking distance of the nearby High Street. Several scenes showed them shuffling together to area shopping and amenities, able to live independently and be healthier because they were not isolated on a suburban senior campus, dependent on their children or a shuttle van to go anywhere. That resonated with me – I thought “I want to live there when I get old.”
What if the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program had a subset specifically for the healthcare industry? That way, healthcare providers could take advantage of a tax break on their profits but have them applied to a specific development that contains a healthy aspect, like affordable senior housing with on-site medical office and a Walkscore of 90 or greater? Just one example, but one that would definitely allow the for-profit healthcare industry to literally see long-term savings because those they insure would be healthier.
There are many possible solutions for ways to create healthier communities. Decisions are possible at the federal and local level that encourage us to live healthier and might just help us figure out the entitlement problem in the long-run, and they are intricately tied to land use.