Report Released on State of Healthy Housing
By Eugene T. Lowe
September 28, 2009
A comprehensive report that looks at the housing conditions in 45 metropolitan areas across the nation reveals a critical need to improve housing conditions in many U.S. cities because home environments have a direct impact on the health of residents. The report, The State of Healthy Housing, is a product of the nonprofit National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH).
The report uses the first-ever national healthy housing indicator by identifying 20 key housing characteristics that relate to occupant health from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey. The areas of concern include: inadequate kitchen and bath facilities; deficient electrical, heating or plumbing systems; ventilation and moisture problems; pests; and poorly maintained building elements. The most common problems identified include water leaks, roofing problems, damaged interior walls and signs of mice.
Comparing owner-occupied dwellings with rental properties, the report looks at conditions in central city housing and housing located outside the central city. The report finds that rental properties have more problems than owner-occupied dwellings and central city housing has more problems than housing located outside the central city.
The report also finds that housing conditions are not significantly better than a decade ago, and may in fact be worse as a result of the current economic crisis and housing foreclosure problem. This fact considered along with the report’s recognition that with as many as six million U.S. families living in substandard housing conditions, the estimated national health care cost associated with environmental-related diseases such as asthma, lead poisoning, and cancer is $54.9 billion a year.
NCHH Executive Director Rebecca Morley said the report “is intended to shine light on the housing conditions that exist in the United States. We’ve known about the health impacts of poor housing conditions since the 19th century when slums were recognized as leading to outbreaks of cholera, tuberculosis, and other communicable diseases. This report is the first of its kind and will help determine where problems exist so that we create an action plan to ensure healthy homes are accessible to all families.”
The report is available online at www.nchh.org/Policy/State-of-Healthy-Housing.aspx.