Healthy Housing

For science.

Our health, longevity and well-being are connected to our communities — the places we live, learn, work, worship, play and age. For example, at least 4 million U.S. households are home to children who are being exposed to high levels of lead,[1] and around 6 million U.S. homes[2] are considered substandard. A 2017 report from the Urban Institute[3] about decaying neighborhoods and the relationship to public health defines substandard housing as residential spaces that endanger the health and safety of residents due to structural and physical problems. And housing instability is linked to higher health care use and hospital visits.[4]

For action.

Educate and advocate for healthy housing policies for all types of housing.[5] Call on U.S. policymakers to fund monitoring and enforcement programs to uphold existing housing codes to prevent poor living conditions. Create accountability systems that work on behalf of residents and provide support to remedy life-threatening living conditions immediately. Recognize that healthy housing begins with healthy communities, and adopt health-in-all-policies frameworks.[6] Check out the many "Opportunities for Action" in the Environmental Health Playbook's Healthy Housing chapter.Those include supporting smokefree multi-unit housing, partnering with the health care sector to address housing as a key social determinant of health and exploring such private initiatives as Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together to increase affordable, safe and healthy housing.[7] Urge Congress to adequately fund rental assistance options to ensure the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Agriculture can meet community needs for affordable housing.[8]

For health.

Where people live — not just how they live — impacts their health and life expectancy. Poor indoor air, lead pipes, inadequate ventilation, pest infestations, water leaks, residential crowding and other hazardous conditions put people at higher risk for health problems.[7,9] Smart local policies that prioritize health can make a difference. Work with non-profit and city partners to create a local healthy housing ordinance to support healthy home environments.[10] Research shows well-maintained sidewalks[9] encourage physical activity, and safe biking networks lead to more cycling and fewer injuries among bicyclists. Rates of preventable deaths — such as deaths from heart disease, diabetes and cancer — typically go down in communities where local public health spending goes up.[11] Other research[12] finds that deaths from cardiovascular disease, diabetes and the flu decline significantly in communities that expand their multi-sector networks in support of population health goals. The affordability and condition of housing and the surrounding environment impacts health.[13] Removing leaded drinking water service lines would save billions of dollars in future health and productivity benefits.[14] 

For justice.

Low-income communities usually have housing options that do not meet the minimum standards of living conditions. Develop and enforce schedules that provide maintenance over time to keep housing developments from becoming substandard. Create programs to assist with resident relocation in case of acute housing issues. Develop federal housing improvement updates and schedules for electricity, HVAC and pest management. Explore housing pricing that is proportional to resident household income.