Building Healthy Communities


Center for Active Design

Funding Area

Building Healthy Communities


January 26, 2017


This NYHealth-funded policy brief by Center for Active Design highlights opportunities for using Active Design strategies on affordable housing design to increase the physical activity of residents and improve their health.

Active Design is an evidence-based approach that offers practical urban planning and architecture design solutions to support healthy communities. Active Design elements—such as stairs, supportive walking and biking infrastructure, and on-site exercise facilities—can help transform the built environment and improve the physical and mental health outcomes for residents, especially those living in affordable housing. To help integrate cost-effective Active Design strategies into affordable housing, the Active Design Verified (ADV) initiative was created to train developers on incorporating design elements and amenities that will promote health.

The policy brief reviews findings from a pilot study in the Bronx that suggests Active Design elements have improved residents’ health. It also evaluates the impact of Active Design strategies on a newly constructed development in Brownsville, Brooklyn (an NYHealth Healthy Neighborhoods Fund site), that is the first multifamily affordable housing site to achieve ADV recognition. Finally, policy recommendations for adopting Active Design and other healthy affordable housing initiatives are included.

Watch a video about the ADV-recognized affordable housing site in Brownsville, Brooklyn and how its outdoor equipment, gardens, and access to healthy food are improving the health and wellbeing of residents.