Among cities experiencing escalating land costs and with competing demands on urban space, joint use of facilities can be an important strategy for providing safe and suitable spaces for activity in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, where parks and recreational facilities are often scarce, and for hosting important services and programs that do not have dedicated space in these communities. A joint use agreement, also known as a shared use agreement, supports a collaborative effort between two or more entities to share the use of facilities and land in order to increase community members’ access and opportunities for physical activity, recreation, and meeting space. Through joint use agreements, government agencies (such as cities, school districts, or parks and recreation departments), nonprofits, and private organizations can arrange to share both indoor and outdoor spaces. These spaces can include school athletic fields, park land, gymnasiums, pools, auditoriums, and playgrounds. When recreational facilities do exist in these areas they are often underfunded and understaffed, poorly maintained, and unsafe. People of color and low-income families are more likely to suffer the negative health impacts linked to lack of physical activity, including obesity and increased risks of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, and some cancers. By promoting safe and accessible recreation areas through joint use agreements, local leaders can begin to mitigate the compounding health and social inequities of residential segregation and neighborhood poverty for underserved communities. In concert with other policy interventions, shared use can be an effective strategy to build healthy communities where all residents can thrive regardless of race or income.
In addition to the PolicyLink resources listed on the right, see www.jointuse.org, the Prevention Institute, and ChangeLab Solutions for more resources on joint use agreements.