Three Cheers for Hospitals’ Housing Push

Originally published on Banker & Tradesman.

A new, multimillion-dollar initiative from three major city hospitals that sees affordable housing and eviction as public health issues has the potential to radically change Massachusetts’ housing conversation for the betterThe commercial housing industry should get involved to make sure it has a seat at the table. 

Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital plan to invest nearly $3 million over three years into housing stability through the Innovative Stable Housing Initiative (ISHI). For now, it’s a pilot project aimed at Greater Boston’s most vulnerable populations, but the hospitals are open about having broader ambitions. 

“We’re trying to contribute in interesting ways to prevent eviction, to prevent displacement, to create more affordable housing,” BMC housing and health researcher Dr. Megan Sandel told Banker & Tradesman. 

BMC hopes to release a more specific vision statement that details its housing policy change goals later this fall, Sandel said. The three hospitals are partnering with community groups not known for being cozy with landlords, like the Center for Economic Democracy, Boston Ujima Project and Right to the City. 

“We have people who are medically fragile, homeless who are very high utilizers of health care system. In our Medicaid population, of our top 2 percent of patient cost people, 40 percent are homeless or housing unstable,” she added. “That being said, we also recognize it’s important to have stable housing as a child when you’re learning and growing. It helps you stay in school, it helps your parents stay in work and keeps you happy and healthy.”