Breaking down health barriers by building affordable housing

A row of three houses in a development.

When it comes to improving the health of a community, you often must look at influences outside the doctor’s office. Environmental conditions in communities — called social determinants of health — can be more impactful than clinical factors. And no environment is more important than your home. That is why during 2021, CVS Health invested nearly $185 million in creating affordable housing in underserved communities across the U.S., supporting more than 6,500 housing units.

Safe, stable and affordable housing is a critical cornerstone of CVS Health’s Health Zones strategy because not only does housing directly impact health, it also impacts our ability to target other critical health factors. Without a permanent address, finding a stable job is much more difficult. Food insecurity is much higher for individuals on waiting lists for affordable housinghttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079041/ versus those who have secured such housing. And homelessness is known to both cause and exacerbate existing health issueshttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218236/, and complicate treatments.

“When you go without housing for a long time, it is very stressful, mentally and physically. When folks come to us, in many cases they’re already experiencing significant health issues.”

Jackson Fonder, CEO of UMOM in Phoenix, AZ

Investing in housing also provides an opportunity for us to deliver other wraparound services where they will be most impactful. In each Health Zone, we are coordinating with other partners and programs to deliver services on-site for residents. From bringing mobile and pop-up Project Health events to mobile food pantries, hosting cooking and nutrition classes and offering transportation services, we are ensuring residents can easily access the tools they need to maintain their health.

“We are investing $13.7 million to renovate the units and community center for Rosewind Estates, a housing community in the South Linden neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio,” said Keli Savage, head of impact investment strategy at CVS Health. “This community is home to more than 700 residents, many of whom are single moms to young children. In collaboration with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, we are working to deliver extra programming for these residents aimed at increasing access to quality healthcare and education and providing them with the services they need, including maternal programs, cooking demonstrations, parenting support groups and employment support.”

By investing in affordable housing, we can alleviate the health challenges inherent to unsafe — or unavailable — housing, while also opening the door to delivering enhanced wraparound services and targeting other critical needs a community may have.