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Evaluating the Impact of Active Design on Affordable Housing

  • By: NYSHealth
  • Date: June 2017
  • Priority Area: Building Healthy Communities
  • Type: Grant Outcome Reports
  • Category: Grant Outcome Report
  • Grantee Name: Center for Active Design, Inc.


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 initiative was created to train developers on incorporating design elements and amenities that will promote health. In 2016, NYSHealth awarded the Center for Active Design, Inc., (CfAD) a grant to evaluate the impact of Active Design strategies on levels of physical activity among residents moving into a newly constructed affordable housing building with Active Design elements in Brownsville, Brooklyn (an NYSHealth Healthy Neighborhoods Fund site). Specifically, the CfAD sought to record health measures and physical activity levels before residents moved into the new building to establish a point of comparison for its larger evaluation effort.

Grantee: Center for Active Design, Inc.

Dates:  April 2016 - June 2016

Grant Amount:  $10,000

Grantee Website:

Grant ID: 16-04051

Outcomes, Lessons & Opportunities:

  • Collected baseline data from prospective residents of the new building in Brownsville and, for comparison, from residents in a building with a similar setting that does not have Active Design elements;
  • Found that, prior to move-in, prospective residents of the new building and residents of the comparison building reported similar levels of physical activity, rates of stair climbing, and average body mass index and waist-to-hip ratios; and
  • Developed the policy brief, “Understanding the Impact of Active Design in Affordable Housing: Insight for Policymakers and Developers.”

The brief details findings from a pilot study in the Bronx that suggest Active Design elements have improved residents’ health; describes the Active Design elements and data collection at the new affordable housing building in Brownsville; and highlights opportunities for developers and policymakers to adopt Active Design in affordable housing to improve physical activity levels and overall health of residents. Findings from this study will also inform a larger cost-benefit study, which CfAD will begin in 2017.

CfAD was selected as one of the winners for NYSHealth’s 10th Anniversary Emerging Innovator Awards, which recognized organizations poised to make radical improvements to the state of New York’s health over the next 10 years.

In May 2016, NYSHealth hosted a public discussion, “A Conversation About Design and Health,” with CfAD and Enterprise Community Partners to discuss their efforts to create healthier buildings, streets, and urban spaces.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: N/A