Incentivizing Healthy Housing

Policy incentives, ranging from tax credits and low-interest loans to tax abatement and exemption programs, can provide a “carrot” alternative to the “stick” of code enforcement. Incentive programs targeted to healthy housing improvements should list eligible repairs and renovations to avoid simply funding aesthetic improvements.

Note: Developing incentives to promote healthy housing is still a work in progress. While the greatest need for healthy home repairs are often in rental properties serving low-income households, many incentives target owner-occupied housing. Incentives often rely on property owners to front the cost of the repair or upgrade. Low-income property owners rarely have upfront resources for repairs, so some incentives provide mechanisms such as refundable tax credits to help lower-income homeowners or landlords. Additionally, incentives for weatherization, energy efficiency, and healthy housing repairs may not focus on the type of maintenance or upgrades needed to prevent or reduce substandard or unhealthy housing conditions. For example, tax credits, tax abatements, and rebates may be available for energy efficiency and other improvements, but they rarely cover items such as roof and siding repairs, interior pipe renovations, or other issues related to substandard housing.

Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE)
DSIRE is the most comprehensive listing of state and local incentives and policies supporting renewable and efficient energy in the U.S. It reports state-by-state, federal, state, and local incentives, including tax credits and rebates, available for energy-related upgrades. [url; Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency]

Examples of Incentives for Healthy Housing and Addressing Code Violations 
This document provides examples of incentives to promote healthy homes and ensure compliance with housing codes. [pdf; Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, 2012]

Federal Tax Credits
This page on the EnergyStar site explains which energy efficiency upgrades are currently eligible for income tax credits. [url; EnergyStar]

How States Use QAPs as Incentive for Preservation, TOD and Green Design & Building Practices
This webinar discusses how states have used their Low Income Housing Tax Credit Qualified Allocation Plans to incentivize green building practices. [url; Enterprise Community Partners]

Sustainable Solutions: Devoting More Resources to Making Housing Healthy
This brief describes potential funding streams and resources to support healthy housing improvements.
[url; Loyola University-Chicago, 2014]

Examples of Local Programs Incentivizing Healthy Home Repairs

  • City of Dallas Home Repair Program
    The City of Dallas offers deferred loans to low-income homeowners for major systems repairs (MSRP), such as roof replacement, upgrades or replacement of plumbing, electrical, and HVAC components, and no-interest, deferred payment loans for reconstruction of homes referred by the MSRP program. A percentage of the MSRP loans are reduced annually as long as the owner remains in the home. [url; City of Dallas]
  • Cleveland, OH, Residential Tax Abatement Program
    Cleveland’s Residential Tax Abatement program offers tax rebates for both single-family homes and multifamily properties for renovations and conversion of nonresidential buildings to residential units. The tax abatement and period of abatement is determined by the county auditor’s office based on the type of improvements. [url; City of Cleveland]
  • Boulder, CO, Low-Interest Home Repair Loan Fund
    Based on financial need, Boulder’s low-interest loan fund allows the owner-occupant to defer repayment of the loan either for 15 years or until they sell the house, whichever comes first. [url; City of Boulder]
  • Milwaukee, WI, Low-Interest Home Repair Loans
    Milwaukee’s loan fund, somewhat similar to Boulder’s (though less  flexible), offers lower loan amounts and provides a good criteria for eligible repairs. [pdf; City of Milwaukee]