Housing and Air Quality

Chicago, IL
United States

Chicago Bungalow

Elevate Energy used the 500 Cities data to assess health disparities and tell the story of equity, health, and energy across low-income Chicago neighborhoods. Elevate Energy has shared the results of their work with local and national stakeholders to inform policies and advocacy for hyperlocal targeted investments in improving health and housing conditions.



Elevate Energy used the 500 Cities data to foster a "Culture of Health": that is, to make the case that there are disparities in health, energy, and housing across Chicago neighborhoods, and engage with local stakeholders to inform cross-cutting policies and programs that improve the health, homes, and communities of Chicago families, particularly families living in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

To achieve this, Elevate Energy has produced a geospatial and quantitative analysis of health, energy, and housing disparities across eight Chicago neighborhoods that focused on iconic Chicago bungalow-style homes. Their report "Health, Housing, and Energy Disparities by Neighborhood: Improving the Health and Homes of Families Living in Chicago’s Bungalow Belt" included an evaluation of energy use, prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma rates, and a shallow real estate market analysis. 

Across those eight neighborhoods, Elevate Energy found disparities in energy use, housing value/cost, and health outcomes.

Elevate Energy presented their work at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Conference to local, regional, state, and national stakeholders in 2019, and the team expects that the work will continue to influence new research, pilot programs, and policy. 


The 500 Cities data were instrumental for the analysis and key outcomes, as they provided a clear image of health outcomes and alignment with geographic disparities in energy and housing. Elevate Energy found the data easy to work with, and thought the interactive online map is great for initial explorations and learning more about the data, while the detailed documentation, methodology, and FAQs were clear and facilitated more complex analyses. 

Meeting with stakeholders throughout this project, Elevate Energy gathered the following three key themes that will inform their work moving forward:

  • People implementing utilities policies and energy-efficiency programs nationwide were eager to see successful program models that delivered energy efficiency and improved health measures. They were interested in how programs can be designed, administered, and funded at scale.
  • Local community and planning organizations were not surprised at the geographic and racial disparities. They noted the analyses and data complement their focus areas, including housing, community development, energy efficiency, and racial equity. They noted that homeowners and renters desired tangible ways to improve their homes and health, whether through formal programs or with information about do-it-yourself measures.
  • City, state, and national policymakers all echoed the need for data-driven and geography-specific integrated planning across sectors (e.g., housing, transportation, health, community and economic development, energy, resiliency) and set objectives to prioritize vulnerable communities and meet multiple goals.

Elevate Energy will continue to talk about the value of the 500 Cities data in their work in discussions with stakeholders at the local level. Their team recently used the 500 Cities data in a presentation at the 2019 National Home Performance Conference & Trade Show about Elevate Energy’s health-program work and the interconnections between housing, energy, health, and air quality. At the national level, they will continue to support the City Health Dashboard—a nationwide data exploration platform that currently hosts 500 Cities data—to incorporate energy data from the US Department of Energy alongside other key health indicators and outcomes.

More broadly, Elevate Energy plans to use these data to improve the local housing stock and research the benefits of housing improvements for health, energy, and air quality. Their long-term goal is to realize widespread changes in housing to improve local health outcomes and reduce health disparities in Chicago and across the US. These data will help them demonstrate the benefits of housing improvements and support efforts to measure health impacts and expand housing programs at a large scale.


Elevate Energy makes the following recommendations for organizations interested in taking similar approaches to using the 500 Cities data in their communities:

  • Use local data with 500 Cities data. It is important to link the 500 Cities data with other local data and on-the-ground outcomes to understand health issues in nuanced local contexts, and to develop solutions with communities to achieve their goals.
  • Every local context is different, so it is important to be flexible and make adjustments if initial expectations do not pan out. We initially looked at air quality in our analysis, but we did not find a consistent geographic pattern for different pollutants, so we pivoted to focus more broadly on health outcomes.

To learn more about Elevate Energy’s work, follow @Elevate_Energy on Twitter. If you are interested in learning more about this team’s project approach or have specific questions regarding replicating their work in your community, please feel free to contact the Principal Investigator of this project, Anna McCreery.