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March 2015

Seattle Developer Commits to First Lady's "Healthier America" Goal

Vitus Group Adds "Active Design" Elements to Affordable Housing Projects

By NWREporter

March 2015

Parnership for Healther America logoVitus Group, a Seattle-based developer of affordable housing, will collaborate with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) and Honorary Chair First Lady Michelle Obama to create healthier communities within affordable housing complexes. It becomes one of three housing developers to commit to incorporating "active design" elements into their projects.

The pledge by Vitus, announced at PHA's Building a Healthier Future Summit in Washington, D.C. in late February, means the developer will incorporate a variety of elements to promote well-being in at least 80 percent of its future projects. Some of the key features of the Active Design concept include:

  • Indoor and outdoor spaces for exercise available year-round for children, adults and seniors
  • Inviting, accessible stairwells that encourage stair use
  • Long term bicycle storage
  • Community gardens and Community Supported Agriculture programs
  • Cooking classes, exercise classes and chronic disease management seminars

The Center for Active Design, a nonprofit resource for design professionals, policy makers, real estate developers and community advocates, will independently verify the company's progress on its commitment. As part of the process and using a multi-disciplinary perspective, the Center provides recommendations for additional Active Design elements for each community.

The Vitus team has developed more than 90 properties with more than 9,000 units of tax-credit-financed affordable housing in 17 states, including Washington. Among its projects in the Seattle area is the redevelopment of Coronado Springs, a 332-unit project in White Center.

The company-a leader of smart affordable housing and a catalyst for community revitalization-both rehabilitates existing housing and creates innovative new developments from the ground up. Whenever possible, it employs the latest sustainable building methods and strives to preserve affordability in areas where it is most needed.

"We are honored to join PHA because it represents an important expansion for us as an affordable housing developer. We view our buildings as more than safe and stable homes; they also have the potential to be platforms to reach communities in need," said Stephen Whyte, managing director of Vitus Group. "We hope that providing our residents with access to a healthier lifestyle will positively influence their everyday lives, added Whyte, the current chair of the Urban Land Institute's Affordable/Workforce Housing Council. 

In a statement announcing the Vitus commitment, PHA cited research on the importance of a healthier America. "Promotion of physical activity and health education are especially important in lower-income communities where people are at greatest risk for obesity and obesity-related diseases," according to the PHA statement.