Blue Sea Development: Designing Affordable Housing for Health

By Alexandra Luterek and Vera Oziransky

Dark stairwells filled with stale air, rampant mold, and cockroach infestations can be some of the grim features of public housing. Asthma prevalence among children living in NYC public housing is up to two times higher than among kids living in other housing. Asthma is also the fourth leading cause of work absenteeism in the US, resulting in nearly 15 million missed or lost work days annually, with a total cost of nearly $3 billion in lost productivity.

While a hidden, unsafe staircase deters tenants from using it, a visible, colorful, well-lit stairwell can promote exercise. The goal of healthy design is to develop buildings, streets, and neighborhoods in a way that uses architecture and urban planning to make daily physical activity and healthy foods more accessible and inviting.

Over the past 30 years, Blue Sea Development has developed approximately 4,000 units of affordable and market rate housing units, and leads in using healthy design strategies in affordable housing. One of Blue Sea Development’s buildings, Arbor House, is a low-income rental building in the South Bronx that utilizes healthy design principles to target disproportionately high rates of asthma in the community. Arbor House includes a ‘living wall’ among other healthy features, and residents report positive effects of the environment on their families.

Read how Blue Sea creates shared value for the community and for its business here. To learn more about the strategies businesses are using to create Shared Value between population health and business profitability, read “Beyond the Four Walls: Why Community is Critical to Workforce Healt”.

How does your community do in terms of promoting a “Culture of Health”? Do large companies play a part on making your environment healthier? We’d love to hear from you, either below or on social media at @VitalityInst and using #Beyond4Walls


Image credit: Urban Land Institute

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