The BHEC initiative is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)
Philadelphia, December 15, 2020 — Reinvestment Fund announced the launch of Building Healthier, More Equitable Communities (BHEC) today, a health and community development focused initiative that will work with cross-sector collaborative teams in four cities in New Jersey to advance equity and wellbeing in targeted neighborhoods. BHEC will support partnerships in Asbury Park, Camden, Newark, and Paterson.
BHEC aims to address the social determinants of health through changes to the built environment and the community investment system in selected New Jersey cities, while acknowledging the unique challenges stemming from the current health and economic crisis.
“For communities to truly be healthy, all residents must have opportunities to live in homes that enable them to thrive. As we’ve seen during this pandemic, that is far from the case in New Jersey, but we believe that through this program, the four selected communities will establish a model for meaningful cooperation and investment across sectors, in close collaboration with residents, that helps achieve a healthier, more equitable future in New Jersey’s cities and towns,” said Michelle Larkin, associate executive vice president at RWJF.
“Reinvestment Fund has a longstanding history of investing in opportunities to improve the social determinants of health in New Jersey—from housing to education to access to healthy food and health care,” said Amanda High, Chief of Strategic Initiatives at Reinvestment Fund. “Through BHEC, we aim to more intentionally connect investments to a neighborhood vision that leverages the collective strengths local communities and public, private and nonprofit entities working together.”
BHEC draws from the lessons and promising practices from Reinvestment Fund’s national Invest Health initiative, which launched in 2016 with support from RWJF. BHEC will work with local-, regional- and state-level organizations over three years to: create cross-sector learning communities; catalyze changes to systems and policies to improve health and well-being; and advance community-driven, data-informed development. BHEC will provide financial resources, technical assistance, trainings, and a learning community platform to exchange ideas and share resources.
The collaborations BHEC is supporting are:
- Asbury Park (West Side neighborhood) – Led by Interfaith Neighbors, Inc., in collaboration with New Jersey Natural Gas, Hackensack Meridian Health System, Westside Citizens United and the City of Asbury Park to name a few. The team is seeking to attract capital to build out physical assets that foster a healthy community. One project they are hoping to implement is an Early Childhood Learning Center to meet the growing demand for quality childcare on the West Side.
- Camden (Parkside neighborhood) – Led by the Parkside Business and Community in Partnership coalition, in collaboration with Virtua Health, Camden Redevelopment Agency, Urban Development Partners and Roots to Prevention to name a few. The team will work to improve linkages between housing and quality health care and increase access to healthy food. The team will prioritize affordable for-sale housing as a strategy for wealth creation and financial sustainability under BHEC award. A project in their plan includes a mixed-use development inclusive of mixed-income multi-family housing, supportive housing and a commercial mix of retail, office, and healthcare.
- Newark (Fairmount neighborhood) – Led by Urban League of Essex County, in collaboration with New Community Corporation, L&M Developer, City of Newark and Fairmount Heights Neighborhood Association to name a few. The team is working to increase affordable housing opportunities and build wealth for residents. One of the projects the Urban League is undertaking is the development of a community hub for the Fairmount Neighborhood. The hub would address many social determinants— recreation, training, affordable housing, and access to healthy food.
- Paterson (Northside neighborhood) – Led by the Health Coalition of Passaic County, in collaboration with Paterson Habitat for Humanity, NJCDC, and St. Joseph’s Health to name a few. The team is working to create a holistic model merging affordable housing with supportive services designed to assist vulnerable individuals and families and use stable housing as a platform for health leading to self-sufficient housing choice and poverty reduction.
The COVID-19 crisis has further highlighted how the social determinants of health and the built environment impact health and well-being. BHEC will meet cities where they are in terms of recovery efforts and provide resources and tools related to brick-and-mortar development (e.g., affordable homes or healthy food retail), authentic community engagement strategies, and changes to the community investment system throughout the initiative.
Each city team has a track record of successfully implemented community development projects. For example, in Asbury Park, Interfaith Neighbors led a revitalization project in the West Side called the Springwood Center, a mixed-use complex with commercial uses, affordable housing, and a home for the Asbury Park Senior Center. Similarly, in Newark, partners led by the Urban League of Essex County and New Community Corporation completed the Littleton Homes affordable housing project, which also employed community members trained at the NCC Training Center in the Fairmount neighborhood. In Paterson, Paterson Habitat for Humanity is leading a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization effort in the Northside neighborhood, supported by Neighborhood Revitalization Tax Credits and anchored around affordable housing, parks, and economic development.
The city teams will work with the BHEC program team and network of experts to codesign the initiative activities, tailoring them to the specific needs of each city, while growing a learning community of practice. To find out more about BHEC, go to www.bhecnj.org.
About Reinvestment Fund
Reinvestment Fund is a mission-driven financial institution committed to making communities work for all people. We bring financial and analytical tools to partnerships that work to ensure that people in communities across the country have the opportunities they strive for: affordable places to live, access to nutritious food and health care, schools where their children can succeed, and strong, local businesses that support jobs. We use data to understand markets and how transactions can have the most powerful impact, which has consistently earned us the top Aeris rating of AAA for financial strength and four stars for impact management. Our asset and risk management systems have also earned us an A+ rating from S&P. Since our inception in 1985, Reinvestment Fund has provided over $2.4 billion in financing to strengthen neighborhoods, scale social enterprises, and build resilient communities. Learn more at reinvestment.com.
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.