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Kaiser Permanente Tackles Housing-As-Healthcare Issue With 1st Affordable Housing Purchase

Citing the connection between housing security and healthcare outcomes, Kaiser Permanente plans to purchase an Oakland building to provide affordable housing.

The company, which has its national headquarters in Oakland, announced this week that it was launching several initiatives to address housing, including the purchase of the 41-unit Kensington Gardens Apartments in East Oakland for $5.2M. The healthcare giant also plans to create a $100M national loan fund for affordable housing and to end homelessness for more than 500 Oakland-area residents.

Kensington Gardens Apartments in East Oakland
Kensington Gardens Apartments in East Oakland

“Housing security is a crucial health issue for vulnerable populations,” Kaiser Chairman and CEO Bernard Tyson said in a statement. “Access to affordable housing is a key component to Kaiser Permanente’s mission to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve and to advance the economic, social and environmental conditions for health.”

More hospitals are getting into affordable housing as a way to create better health outcomes in the communities they serve. The Healthy Neighborhoods, Healthy Families Initiative at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, showed that treating entire neighborhoods as a "patient" provided a way to address social causes of healthcare problems, particularly housing instability.

Kaiser announced its $200M Thriving Communities Fund in May to address housing stability and homelessness through partnerships with government and business leaders. The purchase of the Kensington Gardens Apartments will be the first local impact investment from that fund.

The company is partnering with Enterprise Community Partners on its new Housing for Health Fund, which will provide equity for the purchase, and with the East Bay Asian Local Development Corp. for the upgrades the property needs and to ensure it is preserved as affordable housing. EBALDC will also arrange for supportive social services for residents.

“We are proud to partner with Kaiser Permanente and Enterprise for the first investment of the Housing for Health Fund,” EBALDC Executive Director Joshua Simon said in the statement. “Through this partnership, we can maximize positive health outcomes in Oakland by supporting residents’ ability to remain in their homes.”

He said growing gentrification in areas of Oakland has added to the housing crisis and requires creative and collaborative solutions to ensure housing, which is central to health and well-being. He said he hopes the partnership can serve as a national model.

In addition to the Housing for Health Fund, Kaiser and Enterprise will launch a $100M loan fund to create and preserve apartments for low-income residents in Kaiser's service areas.

"We have seen that uniting the housing and health care sectors and making creative use of investment capital will foster healthy homes and communities,” Enterprise President Laurel Blatchford said in the release.

In addition to establishing the funds to support affordable housing, Kaiser is working with the city, Alameda County and community partners to secure housing and other services for more than 500 people with at least one chronic condition who have struggled with homelessness.