Boston One Touch: Action Steps for Healthier and Greener Homes for Boston Families

Project Funder: Anonymous Donor

Project Partners: Boston Public Health Commission, the Boston Housing Authority, Department of Neighborhood Development, and the Boston Inspectional Services Department

Project Contact: Jonathan Wilson,, 443.539.4162

Project Description: Boston is a center of activity and energy around issues of healthy housing, with city and state government and community groups actively engaged. Low-income families, property owners, and housing developers confronted a complex and fragmented system for addressing housing-related health issues. NCHH joined an array of Boston-based partners in a review of existing key health and housing programs to identify where the most promising opportunities exist to improve children’s health by developing and promoting a “one-touch” service across city lead, asthma, and injury prevention programs.

NCHH delivered training to public and nonprofit agency staff and developed tools such as the Healthy and Green Guide for Affordable Housing and the Healthy and Green Maintenance Manual.

Additionally, NCHH published a report titled Boston One Touch: Action Steps for Healthier and Greener Homes for Boston Families, which includes three recommendations:

  • Target the housing that makes children sick. Asthma, lead-poisoning, and injury rates are highest in just four Boston neighborhoods. Targeting action and funding to ameliorate these neighborhoods has the potential to dramatically impact the health of Boston children and reduce healthcare costs.
  • Focus on broad adoption of high impact, low-cost housing interventions to maximize health and environmental benefits. For example, instituting a smoke-free policy in multifamily properties can save over $2,000 per unit. Spray-free pest management policies combined with effective integrated pest management can reduce exposures for children at no cost while shifting these properties toward more effective control of cockroaches.
  • Make every “touch” count by fully integrating the health, housing, and inspection agencies. Taking advantage of key moments when city personnel interact with families and/or property owners regarding homes can leverage opportunities for more green and healthy activities that benefit families and the city at large.

The Boston One Touch report also summarizes an exciting green pilot project that demonstrated that healthy and green actions can be cost-effectively integrated into rehabilitation programs. In addition to addressing issues related to health, water, and energy efficiency, we wanted to see if we could achieve a recognized standard like the Energy Star homes. We determined that specifications for health, indoor air quality, moisture control, water, and energy efficiency can be achieved without burdening projects with unreasonable costs and that healthy and green standards need not limit affordability.

The One Touch model supports the cross-disciplinary work (health, green, affordable) tied to the real work the city program tackles daily. NCHH was able to maximize the health and financial benefits for a family while achieving larger affordable housing and environmental goals.