Community Sustainability 

Although “sustainability” often refers to buildings and infrastructure - at Boston Housing Authority (BHA), sustainability deals with people: the residents, neighbors and staff. The social dimension - called “community sustainability” - must be addressed in the Strategic Sustainability Plan in addition physical sustainability (building and infrastructure).

BHA communities are home to a diverse population of residents, many who are among the most vulnerable in the city – including disabled, elderly or formerly homeless. BHA residents are overwhelmingly low-income, and many belong to groups that have been historically marginalized, such as racial minorities and recent immigrants.

The Strategic Sustainability Plan recognizes the needs and concerns of residents and strives to align those needs with the necessary physical improvements.


  • The Resident Health Advocate (RHA) program trains public housing residents as community health workers, with preparation tailored to the health needs and concerns of fellow residents. The role of trained residents as specialized community health workers in public housing has been at the heart of two core research projects with the Partners in Health and Housing Prevention Research Center (PHH-PRC). Throughout this BHA has trained over 100 health advocates and will strive to increase the number of hired interns by 50% by 2015.
  • BHA has made significant strides in helping residents achieve better health. In one example, BHA teamed up with the Boston Public Health Commission in 2005 to reduce the number of roaches and rodents, while reducing the use of pesticides (roach and rodent droppings can aggravate asthma symptoms). The Boston Globe recently reported results showing reduced Asthma rates throughout BHA developments. The chart below illustrates the reduced rates as of 2010.


 Community Sustainability Goals

BHA continues to enhance the lives of its residents through the Resident Empowerment Coalition and its Resident Advisory Board. BHA will further explore and refine the following goals.

  • Recognize and promote the central importance of resident engagement in achieving physical and community sustainability at BHA sites.
  • Create an effective communication platform to help residents understand the significant impact they have in achieving energy, water, and waste conservation goals.
  • Engage in best practices, both within BHA and in collaboration with city and community partners, in order for residents to continuously enhance healthy living.
  • Identify and execute strategies that lead to educational and economic opportunities for BHA residents.

One of the first steps in developing more specific and measurable Community Sustainability goals was to engage residents in a Sustainability Summit in July 2013. The Summit included a resident survey to further understand resident values and behavior in regards to energy and water consumption; educational workshops on sustainability; and interactive workshops about resident priorities for the Strategic Sustainability Plan. BHA will issue a revised set of measurable Community Sustainability Goals.

Stay connected and up to date