Bringing Researchers and Community Developers Together to Revitalize a Public Housing Project and Improve Health

Tens of billions of dollars—both public and private—flow to low-income communities each year, mostly for affordable housing. However, it is rare for the health effects of these investments to be assessed. In San Francisco, California, a collaborative effort is under way that aims to fill this research gap while helping residents of Sunnydale, the city’s largest public housing project, where poverty, violence, and truancy are entrenched.

The collaboration is in its earliest stages—with construction not scheduled to start for at least four years—but some early lessons have emerged. For example, researchers and community developers have found that their data collection needs and timeline expectations often don’t match. Nevertheless, the collaborators intend to use the long period before groundbreaking to establish baseline measurements of residents’ social and physical well-being, plan initiatives in collaboration with community members and stakeholders, and seek funding for the initiatives and a longitudinal evaluation of the community.