Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) and Housing

OPHI was awarded a four-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) program. This initiative, Healthy Active Communities for Portland’s Affordable Housing Families, aims to increase healthy eating and active living for children and families living in affordable housing communities in Portland.

Many Portland communities lack basic goods and services, including working wage jobs, affordable child care, access to healthy food, adequate transit service, and safe and secure parks and recreational areas.  Many multi-family rental housing developments often lack on-site amenities such as short and long term bicycle and stroller storage, indoor and outdoor recreation space, garden areas, and sidewalks and pedestrian paths. 

A program overview can be found here.

Members of the HKHC Steering Committee include Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Portland Housing Bureau, Community Cycling Center, ROSE Community Development Corporation, Janus Youth Village Gardens, Hacienda Community Development Corporation, Kaiser Permanente, and Northwest Health Foundation. 

2013 Workplan Goals

  • Enhance multi-family rental housing sites to accomodate HEAL amenities such as bicycle parking and storage
    • Publish a Healthy Housing Handbook for property owners and developers
    • Advocate for healthy housing policies in Portland’s Comprehensive Plan and city housing contracts
    • Support and empower residents and HEAL partners to advocate for HEAL changes on their properties

Assessment of Housing Policies and Environment 

Policy Scan and GIS Mapping
HKHC Steering Committee members developed a long-range workplan. One of the primary assessment activities was conducting a scan of public policies in Portland that affect access to healthy eating and active living (HEAL).

The scan identified HEAL policies that address access for neighborhoods with lower median incomes or higher densities of affordable housing. The policy scan also identified policy supports and tools in place that can be leveraged to improve impact and equitably distribute Portland’s healthy, active communities. Read the full scan here.

OPHI produced the following series of GIS maps to document existing conditions and the presence of HEAL amenities in neighborhoods throughout Portland.

  • The Active Living Citywide map identifies schools, bicycle networks, trails, sidewalks, parks, and community centers.
  • The Healthy Eating Citywide map, identifies full service grocery stores, specialty and ethnic stores, farmers markets, community gardens, emergency food sites, convenience stores and fast food restaurants. Per capita income by census tract was added to the map to show the relationship of HEAL amenities to neighborhoods with lower income residents. This map can be seen here.
  • Site specific 1-mile radius maps with the same variables were also created for two multi-family housing sites in Portland, Leander Court (Active Living and Healthy Eating) and New Columbia (Active Living and Healthy Eating). These maps also include planned and funded bikeways.

Other project activities included a code scan of the City of Portland’s zoning and building codes to identify how city codes affect the development of HEAL amenities on multi-family housing sites.  This scan was performed by the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

OPHI and HKHC partners finalized a workplan for the next two years of project activities, based on findings from the assessment and collaboration with project partners. 

Findings from the scan of zoning regulations
  • Amenity bonuses for HEAL and crime prevention features are not widely used. While the City of Portland has amenity bonuses that encourage health-promoting features, historically developers have not taken advantage of them. Often the benefit of providing the amenity (usually additional development space) is not needed because the density allowance is large enough to accommodate most developments therefore the bonuses often don’t achieve the benefits they intend to for residents.
  • Competing needs for outdoor space. Housing developers must accommodate site elements that compete with outdoor HEAL amenities such as outdoor play areas and well-designed pleasant pedestrian walkways.  Some of the competing requirements include stormwater facilities, minimum parking areas, and minimum density standards may limit the site area available for usable open space.
  • Nonconforming development and rehabilitation properties.  Some developments are in nonconforming use categories and do not meet current zoning regulations.  When redevelopment or rehabs plans reach an annually accruing value, the development must come into compliance with pedestrian circulation systems, bicycle parking, screening for fences and for safety purposes, and landscaping requirements related to setbacks and parking areas.  For those developers who may want to improve the on-site HEAL amenities on their property, some of these requirements may prevent them from doing so.


In winter and spring 2011, residents living in Hacienda CDC and ROSE CDC multi-family housing sites took cameras out into their neighborhoods and created PhotoVoice galleries about the challenges and opportunities they experience day-to-day.  Resident leaders and HKHC partners shared these photos and stories with community activists and decision makers throughout the city.  Our HKHC project hopes to leverage these resident voices and pictures to pursue long-term changes to Portland neighborhoods.

Check out the ROSE CDC PhotoVoice presentation.  For more information, contact Han Tran at .

Check out the Hacienda CDC PhotoVoice presentation.  For more information, contact Laura Koch at, 503.288.8864

PhotoVoice guide developed by OPHI.


The November 2009 Journal of Preventative Medicine summarizes OPHI’s Healthy Eating Active Living Initiative from 2003-2009.

2012 HEAL Report: Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Amenities on Affordable Multi-Family Housing Developments 2012 HEAL Executive Summary

More detail on our 2013 workplan activities can be found here. For more information, contact Steve White at, 503-227-5502 x228.