Fannie Mae picks five contract awardees in innovation challenge

by Candyd Mendoza24 May 2019

Fannie Mae has chosen five innovate ideas to receive contract awards under its Sustainable Communities Innovation Challenge: Healthy Affordable Housing.

The challenge is a two-year open competition that sources innovative ideas and enters contracts for services that aim to improve affordability and stability for underserved areas.

One of the five contract awardees brought up the idea of virtual home visits to reduce childhood asthma. Home visits are time-consuming for healthcare providers, and many patients are wary of letting health professionals into their homes, according to Fannie Mae.

The Children’s National Health System will enable residents and medical providers to use their phones to conduct virtual home visits that will assess conditions in the home that could trigger asthma-related illnesses. The system will then connect the resident to resources to remedy those situations.

The second idea addressed homelessness and mental illness. The Montana-based HRDC proposed a trauma-informed tiny home community to prevent chronic homelessness. The suggested community of tiny homes would apply principles of trauma-informed design and provide supportive community services to formerly homeless people.

The next idea focused on urban agriculture to supply low-income communities with fresh produce. The idea from Chicago planned to grow food at a commercial scale in vertical urban greenhouses and employ underserved communities in the area.

An contract awardee from New Jersey thought of using telehealth equipment to reduce the visits of seniors to the hospital. The telehealth tools installed in seniors’ homes were designed to help nurses measure vital signs, ask health status questions, and intervene as needed – allowing seniors to remain in their communities, prevent frequent hospitalizations, and lower costs.

The final awardee suggested integrating healthcare-sector investments into affordable housing finance. Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) came up with a long-term goal to create a capital funding structure that will incentivize hospitals, insurers, and other healthcare partners to invest in affordable housing in order to improve health outcomes.

"In underserved communities, affordable housing and health outcomes of residents are inextricably linked," said Maria Evans, vice president of sustainable communities partnership and innovation at Fannie Mae. “Research shows that poor quality housing can have a direct, negative impact on a person's health. The five ideas we have chosen to pursue have the potential to reimagine housing as a prescription for a healthy life. We look forward to supporting these innovative solutions and working with all of the contract awardees."