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03/16/2022

CVS Health’s Aetna to invest in affordable housing in Louisiana

Aetna is a co-supporter of a new housing development, as part of CVS Health’s commitment to invest $25 million through R4 Capital to build affordable housing for families and seniors in Louisiana.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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New Orleans city officials joined Gulf Coast Housing Partnership, Alembic Community Development and community partners at a groundbreaking for H3C, a new construction affordable housing and healthcare development located in Central City New Orleans.

Among the project’s supporters is Aetna, a CVS Health company, as part of CVS Health’s commitment to invest $25 million through R4 Capital to build affordable housing for families and seniors in Louisiana.

“Housing is critical to achieving and maintaining good health, yet many people are challenged with unsafe and unaffordable housing that puts their health at risk,” Sonya Nelson, Medicaid division president at Aetna, said. “Aetna is committed to improving healthcare outcomes within underserved populations in Louisiana by helping individuals and families overcome barriers to attaining stable housing.”

[Read more: CVS Health investing $65M in Denver's affordable housing community]

The 210,000-sq.-ft., development will be located on the site of the former Browns Dairy processing plant parking lot, with buildings fronting Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard and Baronne Street.  

H3C, which derives its name from the prioritization of health to the ongoing revitalization of the Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard corridor’s longstanding principles of culture, commerce and community, will have 192 one-, two- and three-bedroom rental homes constructed to national green building standards. Ninety-two of those apartments will be reserved for seniors 55 years of age or older with elements of design that facilitate aging in place, the companies said. 

Integrations made during the design phase of H3C promote mobility among residents. Prominent walkways and staircases encourage use and a centrally located fitness center and green courtyard space encourage residents towards healthy activity. Fitwel is a building rating system created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to guide building design and operations to improve the health of building occupants. H3C will be the first Fitwel certified building in Louisiana.

“The City of New Orleans is excited to partner with GCHP and Alembic to revitalize the former Brown's Diary site, which will help transform this community and bring 192 new affordable housing units and medical facilities to Central City,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell, said. “Our investment of $5.4 million leveraged through state and federal dollars will generate a huge economic impact for New Orleans and provide contracting opportunities for local businesses that meet the city’s DBE requirements. This is a win-win for our city!”

[Read more: CVS Health pledges $7.7M investment in affordable housing for Tampa, Fla.]  

Additionally, H3C includes 12,600-sq.-ft., of commercial and community space anchored by a Federally Qualified Health Center operated by DePaul Community Health Centers, one of the largest community health center networks in Louisiana, providing high-quality, affordable healthcare services. DCHC’s “Patient-Centered Medical Home Model” expands access to individuals and families in a manner that recognizes the dignity of everyone they serve. The organization's holistic services are unique to each of their 11 sites of care located throughout metro New Orleans and include primary and preventive health care for children and adults, women’s health, dental, optometry, behavioral health, podiatry, onsite laboratories and pharmacies.   

“Our organization prides itself on being easily accessible to the community. Many of our patients are challenged by social determinants of health, which include issues that supersede their access to health care like a lack of transportation, employment, housing and food insecurities,” Michael Griffin, president and CEO of DePaul Community Health Centers, said. “H3C gives us yet another opportunity to conveniently treat and reach out to patients on a consistent basis to provide them with high-quality, compassionate care, regardless of their ability to pay.”

In addition to the health center, H3C includes a community center for wellness and supportive services operated by longstanding New Orleans non-profit organization, Belle Reve. Belle Reve, formerly Shelter Resources, Inc. historically operated an adult residential care facility for people with disabilities, specifically HIV/AIDS.  They have now expanded their mission “to provide affordable housing to seniors that is consistent with the principles of diversity, respect and dignity.”

The Belle Reve Center will connect residents to resources, services and programs in the community that address their current and future needs through case management services for the senior residents, including informational referrals, help with benefit and entitlement assistance and access to psychosocial support groups, among other services. They also will engage community partners to provide a variety of programs and services on site.

[Read More: CVS Health to collaborate with Novo Nordisk to tackle obesity]

“Our goal is to promote relationship building, meaningful human connections, in what will be an intergenerational affordable housing community. The Belle Reve Center will provide the space, the staff and the resources to make these connections and create a thriving senior community in New Orleans," William Bedwell, executive director of Belle Reve New Orleans, said.

H3C is the first pilot project for GCHP’s Health + Housing innovation, which received national recognition in August 2020 when GCHP was awarded a $2.5 million grant in the national Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge sponsored by Wells Fargo and Enterprise Community Partners. 

The grant provided funding support for H3C in New Orleans and a similar project planned for Jackson, Miss.

Health + Housing said it recognizes the significant role quality affordable housing and access to health care has on an individual’s health outcomes and utilizes investments provided by healthcare payers, including Medicaid Managed Care Organizations to fund projects like H3C.   

[Read More: Pharmacy tackles big underlying health obstacles]

The project is financed by the Advantage Capital, AMCREF Community Capital, Belle Reve, Finance New Orleans, Home Bank, Housing Authority of New Orleans, Louisiana Housing Corporation, Louisiana Office of Community Development, New Orleans Office of Community Development, R4 Capital Funding, Regional Community Finance and US Bank.

“Financing large-scale, mixed-use community development projects like H3C requires significant alignment and investment from a range of public sector agencies, in addition to private sector investors,” Jonathan Leit, director at Alembic, said. “We are very grateful to all of the project’s funding sources for their investments to bring much-needed affordable housing and healthcare services to Central City.”

Since 2007, GCHP has invested $114 million in affordable housing and complementary community and commercial space on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. 

“Through the addition of affordable housing and commercial revitalization on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, we have added jobs, reduced blight, and encouraged other investors to join us,” Kathy Laborde, GCHP president and CEO, said. “The missing piece has been affordable, accessible healthcare and we are excited to be able to stand here today with our partners and announce our continued commitment to the neighborhood with this $80 million investment.”

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