Whatever Happened to ...Housing

Paying Hospitals to Build Housing—New Jersey Program Expands

More affordable housing projects approved, new funding for scattered-site improvements for substandard housing, and talks about replicating the program beyond the Garden State.

Photo courtesy of NJHMFA

RWJBarnabas in New Jersey intends to build an affordable housing facility in Newark that includes 65 to 70 affordable rental units for residents earning 60 percent of AMI. Photo courtesy of NJHMFA

A New Jersey program that pays hospitals to build affordable housing is still going strong. For the last couple of years, the NJ Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) has been encouraging the state’s hospitals to build affordable housing in their respective communities by providing up to $4 million in financial incentives for each project.

We wrote about the program in 2019. Since then, it has taken off and generated much interest—so much so that the program’s budget has increased: from $12 million to $30 million. This increase will allow the agency to partner with seven to eight hospitals, says Katie Brennan, former chief of staff of NJHMFA. Along with St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson, which we initially highlighted, two new projects have been approved—RWJBarnabas Health is working on a project near its Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, and University Hospital has one near its Newark campus. Three additional projects are moving along the pipeline but have not been announced, says  Brennan.

The RWJBarnabas project, which aims to include 65 to 70 affordable rental units for residents earning 60 percent of AMI, is also expected to provide residents with access to healthy food and medical services, says Brennan.

[Related:Why Would a Hospital Do This?’ Shifting Institutional Culture for Health Equity]

University Hospital’s project, expected to include 75 units, is planned to have an 8,000-square-foot clinical space that will be open to area residents as well as those who live in the units.

There’s been another update since we published our last story: the NJHMFA has committed an additional $5 million for scattered-site work around the approved projects to address substandard housing in existing homes. This includes issues of mold, lead, asthma triggers, as well as tripping/falling hazards for seniors.

“We’re going to ask for participation from community partners to take the lead on that and we’re refining [those] criteria now because we want to address specific health needs and best leverage some of the programs out there,” Brennan says. The criteria for the RFP could be out any day now.

And others have taken notice. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which supports a bevy of organizations and programs at the intersection of health and community development, is in discussion with the National Council of State Housing Agencies about how to replicate the program beyond the Garden State.

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