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The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness’ Center for Health Equity (CHE) has released a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) to review the impacts of HB86, a state affordable housing tax credit intended to help alleviate Kentucky’s affordable housing crisis.
The tax credit, which encourages developers to construct low-income housing, would benefit individuals up to 60% of the area median income (AMI), which is approximately $46,000 for Louisville for a family of four, according to the US Department for Housing and Urban Development. While the report provides a health impact assessment of HB86, it also provides recommendations on additional measures that would further strengthen affordable housing along the spectrum of affordability.
Almost half a million Kentuckians are considered housing cost burdened, which means they pay more than one-third of their income on housing. When housing costs are excessive, individuals do not have the funds to pay for other essential needs including food, medical care, and utilities. This assessment focuses specifically on working households, veterans, youth aging out of foster care, and those recovering from substance use disorder, target populations of the policy.
A Health Impact Assessment is a process that brings together scientific data, health expertise and public input to identify potential health effects of proposed laws and regulations, programs, and projects.
For this assessment, CHE staff conducted interviews of residents living in affordable housing and documented issues around housing availability, the living environment, and the condition of previous and current housing. They also conducted a thorough review of existing research and documentation on health impacts associated with affordable housing including affordability, environmental issues, mental health and impacts on the local economy.
“Health Impact Assessments bring stakeholders together to identify critical information on how a policy or program might impact health. Through this process, an HIA places health at the center of decision-making, which helps to better inform policymakers,” said Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness and Chief Health Strategist for the city. The department has been conducting Health Impact Assessments since 2017.
“Affordable housing is critical for the health and wellbeing of individuals across Kentucky,” said Dr. Moyer. “Affordable housing creates stability for families, increasing funds for nutrition and medical care while reducing the risk of anxiety and depression. It is also critical for those recovering from substance use disorder.”
Affordable housing tax credits can also have a positive economic impact on the local community. The construction of affordable housing units can increase property values and economic activity in nearby neighborhoods. Improved access to affordable housing can also reduce spending required for the care of the unhoused as well as treatment for those suffering from substance use disorders.
Key findings of the HIA include:
“As the last few years have surely demonstrated time and again, housing is healthcare, and evaluating housing policy options from a public health lens is particularly important as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Adrienne Bush, executive director of the Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky. “This HIA affirms that increasing access to affordable housing is critical for creating a healthier Kentucky.”
“It’s no surprise that housing impacts people’s lives drastically, including their health and overall well-being. But for too many Kentuckians, the lack of affordable housing options is leaving them in dire situations – causing a ripple effect in all aspects of their life, including their health. Kentucky can’t wait any longer to make housing affordability a priority for thousands of Kentuckians who simply need a place to live that doesn’t break the bank,” said Tiffany Marthaler, executive director, Kentucky Affordable Housing Coalition. “Thankfully, workforce and affordable housing tax credits are a solution that will work. We hope our policymakers can feel confident passing HB86 after seeing the data and benefits in the HIA.”
A detailed copy of the Health Impact Assessment on Kentucky’s Affordable Housing Tax Credit policy can be found at www.HIA-Lou.com.
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‘This too shall pass away’ this famous Persian adage seems to be defeating us again and again in the case of COVID-19. Despite every effort