Philadelphia, June 16, 2020 – Reinvestment Fund today announced the launch of the Building Healthier, More Equitable Communities (BHEC) initiative in New Jersey. BHEC aims to address the barriers to better health through changes to the built environment and community investment system. The initiative will work with four cities selected through an application process, to advance community development priorities and further their plans for an equitable recovery from the current health and economic crisis. BHEC was created with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
“From safe housing to access to healthcare, the COVID-19 crisis has amplified the challenges that communities face when it comes to health and well-being,” said Amanda High, Chief of Strategic Initiatives at Reinvestment Fund. “With access to resources and a peer learning exchange through BHEC, selected cities will receive a variety of supports to work with local communities to spur equitable recovery through development.”
Cross-sector teams from 10 eligible cities are invited to apply to the initiative through a two-phase selection process. The eligible cities are Asbury Park, Bridgeton, Camden, Elizabeth, Jersey City, Millville, New Brunswick, Newark, Paterson, and Perth Amboy. The cities were identified through a planning process in 2019 that engaged a broad, diverse set of stakeholders across New Jersey.
“This investment in New Jersey’s communities represents a step in addressing equity, by offering community development resources to non-profits and their partner organizations to improve the built environment and advance other opportunities to promote health and well-being for the people that live there,” said Marco Navarro, Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The first phase of the application is now open. City teams, composed of cross-sector collaborations, are encouraged to submit an expression of interest by July 17. Selected cross-sector teams will then be invited to a second phase of the application process. The final BHEC cities are expected to be announced in fall 2020 and will receive financial resources, technical assistance, peer learning opportunities, and targeted trainings.
In light of COVID-19’s impact on community health and economic vitality, BHEC will adapt to the needs of cities in terms of recovery as they work to improve equity and well-being through positive changes in brick-and-mortar development – like affordable homes or healthy food retail, promote authentic community engagement, and foster changes to the community investment system.
BHEC is modelled after Invest Health, a national initiative that brought together cross-sector leaders from 50 small to mid-size cities across the country to strategize and align with community development finance experts, local, regional, and national philanthropic networks, and public funding streams to build healthier, more equitable communities. Over a period of three years, BHEC cities will work with Reinvestment Fund and stakeholders at the local, regional, and state level to create a cross-sector learning community, spur systems change, and advance community-driven, data-informed development activities.