Affordable Housing and Health Study

 Carolyn, Virginia and Mehreen in the back row with ACDC staff

Carolyn, Virginia and Mehreen in the back row with ACDC staff

ACDC has been working with a team of researchers from Tufts University and MIT, on a collaborative community health survey to explore how and to what extent affordable housing improves various health factors such as nutrition and safety.

Thank you to Carolyn Rubin, Ed.D, an Assistant Professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine, Department of Public Health, Virginia Chomitz, PhD, MS, an Associate Professor also at the Tufts University School of Medicine, and Mehreen Ismail, MPH, a doctoral student in the Food Policy and Applied Nutrition program at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and to Mariana Arcaya, ScD, MCP, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Public Health at MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning, who worked with ACDC to develop the survey, conduct the survey and record the survey results. Carolyn, Virginia and Mariana recently shared with us the preliminary results.

The study, which was also translated into Chinese and Spanish, focuses two sets of households, the first set (56 households) were those who were selected via lottery to move into an affordable rental at 66 Hudson at One Greenway, ACDC's affordable development completed in 2015. The second group are those who are still on a waitlist for affordable housing and have not yet moved into an affordable rental or affordable condo/house. The preliminary study focused on the first group, those who now live in affordable housing. A few highlights from the survey results:

  • 75% of respondents felt that their living in affordable housing in Chinatown enabled them to meet their basic needs, meaning the location was close to amenities such as grocery stores, work, school and the hospital.
  • 75% reported being able to find fresh fruits and vegetables nearby.
  • Respondents who previously lived in suburban areas (Weymouth, etc) found that living in Chinatown was more convenient to meet their basic needs.
  • 50% of the households reported that their previous living situation was overcrowded.
  • One respondent commented, "Chinatown is a better place to live for older individuals", and explained that there was more time to do other activities because they were not spending as much time commuting. They also mentioned appreciating the shorter distances they needed to walk to get to various amenities, and how walking further distances increases their arthritic pain during colder months.

We are working to secure additional funding to continue the study and follow up with those who are still on a waiting list for affordable housing, in addition to:

  • exploring the nuances of the responses from the preliminary study;
  • conducting qualitative research to connect with survey respondents on their food intake and nutritional habits;
  • exploring the effects of gentrification on the food environment and how that affects those who live in affordable housing (i.e. Whole Foods moving into a gentrifying neighborhood vs a grocery store with more affordable prices);
  • surveying if those living in affordable housing still deal with food insecurity and to what extent;
  • and continuing to follow up with each group to explore these health factors over time.