Housing and Health Partnership in Practice: Affordable Housing Investments by UnitedHealth Group

Housing and Health Partnership in Practice: Affordable Housing Investments by UnitedHealth Group
Janet Viveiros
National Housing Conference
Publication Date:
Find Full Text

This case study describes a partnership between Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC), a community development corporation that provides holistic supportive services for low- and moderate-income people, and UnitedHealthcare Community and State, a subsidiary of the UnitedHealth Group that serves people participating in safety net medical plans. To address healthcare needs through affordable housing in Phoenix, Arizona, the Medicaid managed care organization recognized housing as a critical social determinant of health and has adjusted its investment strategy over the past 10 years to address health care needs through housing, including more than $300 million in investments in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). But after finding that most of those on their plans earn 35 percent or less of the area median income, an income range that includes many households that LIHTC developments do not serve, the company shifted its focus in 2011 to provide capital to groups such as the CPLC. Initially, UnitedHealthcare created a data infrastructure at Maryvale Community Center, a CPLC facility that centralizes medical services for community members and developed a nutrition program for diabetes patients. In 2015, the partnership expanded as part of the myConnections program, which addresses social determinants of health through “investing in supportive and social services, increasing the affordable housing stock, and upgrading [information technology] infrastructure to facilitate data sharing.” Through this new program, UnitedHealthcare provided new staff at the Maryvale community center to help members with employment, housing, and health services and provided low-interest financing for the CPLC to redevelop a 500-unit apartment complex. These investments in housing intend to “substantially impact health care service needs and reduce costs.”

Key lessons:

  • “Time and consistent leadership from both [partner] organizations” are needed to navigate the different systems used by health care providers and community development corporations. These systems include the other group’s language or jargon that is used in “dialogue and documentation” and managing different financial timelines.
  • Local or regional groups, like the CPLC, need to convey how their work will advance the goals of the other, sometimes larger, organization, such as the UnitedHealth Group. This makes it clear how the partnership can be mutually beneficial.
  • Measurement and evaluation must be thought about creatively because desired outcomes focus on health holistically, not just by health care use.