New National Healthy Housing Standard Published
Yesterday, the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) in partnership with the American Public Health Association (APHA) unveiled a new National Healthy Housing Standard. The standard is aimed at improving the health of Americans by addressing serious health and safety hazards in U.S. homes.
The home is the most dangerous place for U.S. families. Roughly 30 million families live in unsafe and unhealthy housing with broken heating and plumbing, holes in walls and windows, roach and rodent infestation, falling plaster, crumbling foundations, and leaking roofs. Millions more in all 50 states live in housing with serious health and safety hazards that can cause allergies, asthma, injuries, cancer, and lead poisoning, which add billions of dollars to health care costs and hamper children’s health, development, and well-being.
The new standard would not apply to new construction or housing renovation. Instead, the standard is intended to be used by government agencies to ensure that the existing housing stock—more than 100 million units nationwide—is maintained in a condition that protects the health and safety of Americans. The document can also serve as a standard of care for any property owner to follow to ensure the health and safety of residents.
“We look forward to seeing lives saved and communities stabilized as the code provisions are implemented,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association and a member of the Committee on Housing and Health, which oversaw the standard’s development.
“The development of this health-based standard is just the first step. The most important work of seeking its adoption by federal, state, and local agencies is a heavy lift and will require the help and involvement of a wide array of partners,” said Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing.
“These health-based standards will play a vital role in our mission to improve health through housing and present an opportunity to ensure all families have decent, safe and healthy homes to live in. They serve also as a critical step in implementing the larger federal plan outlined in Advancing Healthy Housing – A Strategy for Action. I want to commend the National Center for Healthy Housing and the American Public Health Association for their leadership in the development of these housing standards,” said Jon L. Gant, Director of HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control.
The standard includes public health and safety protections related to plumbing; safety; lighting and electrical systems; heating, ventilation, and energy efficiency; moisture and mold control; pest management; and chemicals such as radon, lead, formaldehyde, and asbestos.
The standard is based on a 1986 document by APHA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Housing and Health: Recommended Minimum Housing Standards.” The update puts into building code parlance new evidence about the connection between our homes and illnesses such as asthma, cancer, and injuries. The standard was developed under the auspices of the National Committee on Housing and Health and a Technical Review Work Group, comprised of leading international experts and professionals.
NCHH is requesting comments from health and housing practitioners, advocates, and other stakeholders in healthy housing on the standard through July 31, 2013. To access the National Healthy Housing Standard and provide comments, please visit their website here.
Rebecca Morley is the executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing.
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