September 30th, 2013

NCHH Unveils Latest State of Healthy Housing Report

Report Shows 40% of U.S. Homes Have Health and Safety Hazards

COLUMBIA, MD (September 30, 2013) – The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) has released the newest results of the State of Healthy Housing, a comprehensive study of housing conditions in 46 metropolitan areas of the nation. The study reveals that 35 million – 40% – of metropolitan homes in the U.S. have one or more health and safety hazards.

“Our study shows that a shocking number of Americans are living with serious health and safety risks,” said Rebecca Morley, executive director, National Center for Healthy Housing.

NCHH researchers found that the physical conditions of U.S. housing have declined since the last survey in 2009, which found that about 30 million homes (or 35%) had health and safety hazards. The foreclosure crisis and the blighted conditions that followed may be one factor in the decline.

“Notwithstanding today’s headlines regarding an emerging housing recovery, the State of Healthy Housing underscores the need to improve housing conditions across the country,” said Nicolas P. Retsinas, director emeritus of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. “The report documents that healthy homes remain elusive for far too many homeowners, renters, and their children. The findings in this report should motivate government, business, and nonprofit leaders to come together to ensure that all families have a decent place to live.”

According to the State of Healthy Housing, the metropolitan areas of San Jose, California; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida, rank at the top of the list for having the healthiest housing. At the bottom of the list for having the least healthy houses are the metropolitan areas of San Antonio, Texas; Birmingham, Alabama; and Memphis, Tennessee.

“No matter where you live, people should have access to a safe and healthy home,” said Maurice Jones, Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). “The State of Healthy Housing report documents some of the challenges we face to make this goal a reality. HUD is committed to finding real and lasting solutions to these unhealthy housing conditions.”

NCHH measures healthy housing by using 20 housing characteristics that relate to health from the American Housing Survey. The survey is sponsored by HUD and conducted by the Census Bureau. Those characteristics include incomplete plumbing and kitchen facilities; deficient electrical, heating, or plumbing systems; ventilation and moisture problems; the presence of mice and other pests; and poorly maintained building elements. The most common problems identified include water leaks, roofing problems, damaged interior walls, and signs of mice.

“San Jose is honored to be recognized as having the healthiest housing in the country. We take great pride in our policies and services that ensure good quality housing for our residents, particularly those with limited incomes,” said Leslye Corsiglia, City of San Jose’s housing director. “Because we live in one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets, it is important that San Jose continues to provide homes that are affordable to its hardworking residents and families. Otherwise, households may resort to living in overcrowded or substandard conditions, or be forced to commute longer distances, which is harmful to the environment.”

The State of Healthy Housing report compared owner-occupied dwellings with rental properties across 46 metropolitan areas of the country and examined conditions in central city housing compared with housing located outside the central city. Across metropolitan statistical areas, rental properties tend to have more problems than owner-occupied dwellings, and central city housing has more problems than housing located outside the central city. Although there are exceptions to these trends, central city rental properties are typically older and, because of limited housing choices, are more likely to be inhabited by lower income residents.

Housing has been implicated in an array of health problems, including asthma, lead poisoning, and cancer. These environmental-related diseases are estimated to cost the U.S. $70 billion a year.

NCHH will continue to draw attention to hazards that exist in many homes through the State of Healthy Housing, while taking action through several initiatives to educate property owners and residents about ways they can create and maintain a healthy home environment.

This month, NCHH kicked off the Healthy Housing Challenge with its partner, Rebuilding Together, the nation’s leader in volunteer home repairs. The Challenge is active in nine cities and enables volunteers to make repairs at no charge to prevent health and safety hazards in the homes of low-income families, seniors, veterans, and persons with disabilities.

In December, NCHH will release the National Healthy Housing Standard, a model health and safety policy that government agencies and others that manage properties can adopt to protect families from dangers in the home.

The State of Healthy Housing and complete results of the report are available online.


The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) is the only national scientific and technical nonprofit organization dedicated to creating healthy and safe homes for America’s children through practical and proven steps. NCHH develops scientifically valid and practical strategies to make homes safe from hazards, to alert low-income families about housing-related health risks, and to help them protect their children. NCHH also works with governmental and nongovernmental organizations to develop standards and programs and guide their implementation through insurers, lenders, federal and state laws and regulations, community organizations, and the courts.

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