Building Healthy Neighborhoods

Laurie O'Reilly | @LaurieOReilly Conservation Matters Spring 2014

For a neighborhood to truly thrive, it needs healthy people, a healthy environment, and a healthy economy with opportunities for all. Today, record numbers of Americans suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma, which are strongly influenced by their neighborhood and environmental conditions. At the same time, traditional sources of public funding for development are drying up, making the vision of a healthy community harder to realize.

The costs of doing nothing – soaring healthcare expenses, increased crime, and high jobless rates among them – are too high to ignore and felt most acutely in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Fortunately, the scale and severity of the challenge are generating interest in pioneering solutions that harness the strengths of the health, community development, and impact-investing fields. Socially responsible investment that generates “quadruple bottom line” returns – financial, social, environmental, and health benefits – are bringing new resources to bear on these issues.

Recognizing the complex challenges of building healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities, CLF Ventures, our market-based solutions team, has partnered with the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation to create the Healthy Neighborhoods Equity Fund. The Fund is designed to bring new sources of capital to mixed-use, mixed-income real estate projects within walking distance of transit. Based on an assessment conducted by CLF and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Fund will screen and prioritize projects with the greatest potential to transform neighborhoods and bring lasting benefits for residents – quality housing across income levels, job opportunities, better health and well being – while also delivering attractive returns for investors.

The Fund is currently raising capital for an expanding pipeline of potential projects in selected locations throughout Massachusetts. Targeted investments can help unlock these communities’ social and economic potential while improving the lives of thousands of people. CLF ultimately hopes this innovative program for revitalizing neighborhoods will become a model for similar efforts nationwide.

Focus Areas

Market Strategies

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