The SDG Connection: Housing and Health in Devens

The purpose of the SDG Connection blog series is to illustrate how an individual community can use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to evaluate our sustainable development actions. This month we focus on the connections between housing and public health.

What Do Health, Housing, and Economic Development Have in Common?

Health, housing, and economic development all are connected to our opportunity for a sustainable, resilient future. Sustainability is not just about reducing our energy usage and protecting the environment but also about improving our social and economic environments to improve quality of life for everyone. Devens requires that all developments seeking a development permit state how they will be sustainable. We take this as an opportunity to educate them that sustainable development goes beyond economic sustainability and environmental protection to include a commitment to social equity.

The importance of our social, environmental, and economic sustainability has escalated in importance in the face of climate change. Climate change is expected to bring adverse impacts on housing stability, public health, and our local economy, often disproportionately impacting our most vulnerable populations.  

The Devens Enterprise Commission is committed to ensuring Devens is resilient against the impacts of climate change. Devens Forward Climate Action and Resilience Plan is designed to ensure just that.

SDG Connection: Local Issues and Global Climate Change

Devens has a strong and enduring commitment to acting locally while thinking globally, and we use the UN SDGs as a metric to evaluate our efforts.  

This month we look at how our health and housing initiatives are improving the quality of life in Devens and how they can help us to achieve the UN SDGs, including:

  • SDG 1: No Poverty
  • SDG 2: Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

Building a Healthy Future in Devens

Health and Housing in Devens

The way buildings are constructed and maintained can have a big impact on human health and well-being. For example, certain materials used during construction may impair indoor air quality. The DEC has used health impact assessments (HIA) to evaluate the health impacts of new developments. We completed an HIA to compare the Grant Road Housing project to a conventional development on the same property and found it to have greater health benefits and fewer adverse impacts. 

Devens also aims to promote housing type diversity through residential development standards. Emerson Village, for example, has a mix of housing types, including rentals, as well as single-, two-, three- or four-unit homes. 25% of housing within the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone is reserved for low-income and special needs residents. 

Natural resources can also have an impact on healthy housing. In particular, street trees provide many benefits like reducing household energy costs, improving air quality, and sequestering carbon. Devens Forward Plan promotes the connection between public health and our natural resources.

What Devens is Doing to Make the Connection

Devens Forward Plan includes specific actions that aim to improve public health, housing and economic development while acting on climate change by:

Spotlight: Local Organizations Promoting Health and Well-being

Addressing food insecurity is an important aspect of our public health and safety goals part of the Devens Forward Plan and is crucial to our sustainability and resilience efforts. Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry is a food pantry in Devens that addresses the food insecurity needs of regional residents.  

There are many other community organizations in Devens that work with people experiencing homelessness or food insecurity. Our Father’s House provides homeless services, Clear Path for Veterans New England has a raised garden bed, YMC America employees grow food for the community organization Growing Places, and Parker Charter School greenhouse grows food and donates it to Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry. 

What Can Residents and Businesses do to Make an Impact?

Residents and businesses can support healthy environments and safe housing in Devens by:

  1. Supporting organizations in the community that promote human health and well-being through support for people experiencing homelessness or food insecurity
  2. Checking out resources for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month this November to learn how to volunteer, donate, or educate yourself about hunger and homelessness.

Stay tuned for more blogs each month and check out actions in the Devens Forward Plan if you want more information about what Devens is doing to promote resilient housing and economic development.