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The Importance of Open Spaces in Affordable Housing Communities

The Importance of Open Spaces in Affordable Housing Communities

Open spaces in Boston, like Boston Common and the Rose Kennedy Greenway, play a vital role in fostering physical activity and hosting community gatherings, such as

food and culture festivals and public displays of activism. Yet, these open spaces are not always accessible or welcoming to low-income residents who don’t have the time or resources to visit them. To improve residents’ quality of life, it’s critical that community development organizations invest in and preserve neighborhood parks, playgrounds, and central plazas closer to home.

Public outdoor spaces enhance physical health by encouraging people to get outside and get active. A study from the Robert Wood Foundation found that many “Latino communities lack green spaces that are safe, accessible, functional, and culturally relevant,” which can place them at higher risk of developing health problems associated with inactivity, such as obesity and diabetes. Parks and other open spaces combat this by giving both children and adults a place to engage in playful forms of recreation, such as tag or football, as well as a safe space for regular exercise and movement.

Open space has also been shown to improve mental health and wellbeing. For instance, “individuals have less mental distress, less anxiety and depression, greater wellbeing and healthier cortisol profiles” when more open space is present within their environment (Jo Barton and Mike Rogerson). The benefits of spending time outside are even more pronounced in children, helping their emotional and behavioral development and leaving them less prone to experiencing mental illness later in life. Open spaces additionally provide a platform for social interaction and organization. When communities have a central location in which to gather, people are more likely to bond with their neighbors, feel connected to their neighborhood, and form a sense of shared identity (Robert Wood Foundation).

For more than 50 years, IBA has understood that open spaces allow our residents to lead healthier, happier, and more engaged lives. We have made it a priority to incorporate safe, accessible, and culturally relevant open spaces into Villa Victoria. Inspired by homes in Puerto Rico and with sustainable living in mind, Villa Victoria townhouses have private yards and outdoor stoops, providing spaces for our residents to get fresh air. In addition to several open spaces and playgrounds in our footprint, Plaza Betances also provides an irreplaceable space for celebrating the strengths and vibrancy of our community as the site of Festival Betances each year, regular Latinx activism and expression, and many of our resident services.

For people living in cities, open spaces can be difficult to come across. We are committed to preserving our open spaces in Villa Victoria and holding the City of Boston and developers accountable for integrating parks and civic spaces for public benefit in new projects.

We are proud to be working to develop housing opportunities for low-income households and minority residents in Boston. For more information about Resident Services or Affordable Housing, please contact Mayra I. Negrón- Rivera at (617) 927-1708 or mnegron@ibaboston.org.

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