Catalyze Research and Consulting, LLC, along with the Phoenix Revitalization Corporation and with support from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Phoenix, conducted a health impact assessment (HIA) of the proposed plan for redevelopment of the Coffelt-Lamoreaux Public Housing Project (Coffelt) in Phoenix, Arizona. Coffelt is the oldest operational public housing project in Maricopa County. It was developed in 1953 and annexed in 1959 by the City of Phoenix, but the streets in Coffelt were not annexed into the city street plan. The HIA examined how residents’ physical and mental health could be affected by improvements in site infrastructure, such as landscaping and street improvements, as well as improvements in housing conditions.
In addition to quantitative data available from health departments, transportation agencies, and environmental agencies, the HIA utilized health surveys, audits, and asset inventories from the Coffelt community.
The HIA made recommendations in the following areas: access to healthy foods, access to and promotion of physical activity, access to safe streets and transportation, and healthy and safe housing.
Access to healthy foods
The Coffelt neighborhood is in a census tract that is considered a food desert by the USDA. The nearest full-service supermarket is greater than one half mile away from the neighborhood and the grocery store 0.2 miles from the neighborhood has a limited selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. Residents reported that staple items (milk and canned goods) are overpriced at this grocery. The HIA recommended that the Housing Authority of Maricopa and/or Phoenix Revitalization Corporation work with the existing grocery store, through financing options such as the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, to expand the store’s selection of healthy foods. The HIA also recommended working with the local Walmart and other full-service supermarkets to provide free shuttle busses for Coffelt residents. Walmart has implemented a similar shuttle service in an underserved community in Saginaw Valley, Michigan.
Access to physical activity
While there is a park in the center of the Coffelt neighborhood, many residents cited the condition of the park and its facilities as well as lack of shade and seating as a barrier to using the park. There is a direct path to the nearby Arthur Hamilton Elementary School playground but according to residents, this facility is locked at all times. The HIA recommended that trees and additional shade structures and drinking fountains be installed at the Coffelt park, in addition to new amenities such as a walking/jogging track. The HIA also recommended that the playground equipment be replaced to be consistent with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Public Playground Safety Handbook. The HIA also recommended developing a joint-use agreement with Arthur Hamilton Elementary School, based on an existing program at Wilson Elementary School.
Access to safe streets and transportation
The HIA recommended redesigning 19th Avenue, one of the main arterial streets near the Coffelt neighborhood, based on the Phoenix Complete Streets Policy. Specific recommendations include a High-Intensity Activated CrossWALK (HAWK) beacon and road dieting for the arterial. The HIA also recommended installing shelters that provide seating and shade at the bus stops along the arterial. The HIA also recommended street improvements within the Coffelt neighborhood, including repaving streets, making sidewalks ADA compliant, providing additional street lighting, and introducing shade.
Healthy and safe housing
The HIA made many recommendations that could potentially impact health including installing sound insulation in units to mitigate noise from Sky Harbor Airport; installing lighting on the exterior wall of units and ensuring that all on-site lighting is dawn-to-dusk; adding trees and other vegetation to help improve air quality, provide shade, and mitigate urban heat effects; constructing a wall along the Coffelt neighborhood boundary where it is adjacent to industrial areas; and establishing a block watch program.
The HIA recommended improving the safety, connectivity, and cohesion of Coffelt-Lamoreaux Public Housing by redesigning dangerous intersections, ensuring adequate lighting of streets, improving the condition of existing housing units, connecting streets in the area to adjacent communities, improving park facilities, and controlling and minimizing the stray dog and rodent populations. As a result of the HIA, city and county organizations in Phoenix engaged in unprecedented collaboration and allocated $44 million to the redevelopment of the community. Dangerous intersections have been redesigned to prevent injury and violence. The community is planning to further improve its infrastructure.