UnitedHealth's investments in affordable housing top $1B

UnitedHealth Group's investments in affordable housing have topped $1 billion, with the program a keystone in its overarching strategy to address health equity and disparities.

The company has made investments in housing since 2011 and, in that time, has supported the development of affordable and mixed income units across 31 states and the District of Columbia, creating more than 25,000 homes for people and families who face housing insecurity.

The investments include direct funding from the company as well as those made through Low-Income Housing Investment Tax Credits and Community Reinvestment Act loans, UnitedHealth said. The company has backed both new development and rehabilitation for older locations in urban, suburban and rural markets.

Catherine Anderson, senior vice president of health equity strategy at UnitedHealth Group, told Fierce Healthcare that the milestone is indicative of the company's commitment to taking on disparities and equity challenges.

"It's hard to talk to somebody about things like preventive care if they're worried about where they're sleeping, or where their family will be sleeping tonight," Anderson said. "So housing is certainly squarely in the middle of that work."

Exterior of Aya Tower in Atlanta
The exterior of Aya Tower in East Point, Georgia (UnitedHealth Group)

"But it isn't the only place where we're leaning in as an organization, because we know other factors such as transportation, availability of food, access to the internet, all of those things actually contribute to someone having disparities and not having equitable health," she added.

For example, one of the company's latest investments is a newly renovated building in East Point, Georgia, a city just outside of Atlanta. The tower was originally closed in 2004 and it was given a $24 million makeover, now offering 88 one- and two-bedroom units for families making between $30,000 and $40,000 per year.

The initiative is also co-locating key health and social services in adjacent buildings both for residents and the broader community, supported by UHG alongside Grady Health and Goodwill of North Georgia.

UnitedHealth is tracking the health benefits of these investments and spent two years measuring outcomes against a baseline set by Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future and the National Affordable Housing Trust. It found that people living in the properties it backed were more likely to receive annual checkups, with 95% having one in the past year.

In addition, residents living in these locations reported better mental health compared to low-income individuals across the country.

"We are using the investment strategy to expand access and capacity," Anderson said. "And we are also really intentionally working with partners who are just as committed to solving for other challenges, and we think that collective suite of services along with housing is going to drive the best outcomes as it relates to improved health."