UnitedHealth invests $100M in building affordable housing 

UnitedHealth Group is investing $100 million in building affordable housing units that will also include on-site health services. 

The funding will build 1,000 homes for families and seniors in partnership with Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future and the National Affordable Housing Trust. The initial batch of units will include 100 apartments in Washington, D.C., 40 apartments in Wharton, Texas, and 30 apartments in Choctaw, Oklahoma. 

UnitedHealth will also put $1 million toward on-site health and wellness services and tracking how access is impacting residents’ health. 

“This particular partnership is really unique and one of a kind,” Heather Cianfrocco, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community & State, told FierceHealthcare. “Not only are we investing $100 million in housing, but the partners are committed to investing in and measuring health outcomes for residents.” 

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Cianfrocco said the new units are not reserved for UnitedHealthcare members, as the initiative is designed to target housing insecurity among the general public. UnitedHealth will be targeting people making 30% or less of the local median income. 

With the latest investment, UnitedHealth has donated $500 million toward building housing since 2011, including 80 affordable housing developments and 4,500 homes across 18 states. 

Cianfrocco said the insurer believes that it is its “responsibility” in playing a role in addressing social needs that impact health. She said that UnitedHealth also believed it was critical to make investments in housing that benefits the people with some of the lowest incomes. 

Competitors such as CVS Health, the parent company of Aetna, have also made significant investments in housing. CVS put $67 million into affordable housing in 2019, including hundreds of units targeting victims of domestic violence and the homeless. 

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Kaiser Permanente also invested in an affordable housing complex in its home base of Oakland, California, with the goal of preventing residents from being priced out of the units due to redevelopment. 

Cianfrocco said that the conversation in the industry around the social determinants of health has accelerated rapidly in recent years—and that there’s still work to be done to drive innovation in addressing these challenges. 

For example, the industry hasn’t yet cracked the code to fully weaving together disparate elements to create solutions to meet social needs, she said. 

“We want to set an example,” Cianfrocco said. “We know the connection that stable housing has to health."