Assessing Healthy Housing on a Community Level

While availability of data to evaluate the state and “health” of housing stock varies from community to community, there are several standard tools that almost any community can use to begin. Housing code violations and enforcement actions help to pinpoint substandard or poor quality housing, while health data may highlight issues, such as chronic respiratory illnesses, lead poisoning, falls, or even specific forms of death, which are often triggered by home health hazards. Overlaying the data together can often identify where community and housing health hotspots exist. Below is a list of potential data resources to assess housing health as well as examples of how a few communities have used and integrated health and housing data to promote healthier housing.

State Healthy Housing Fact Sheets  
NCHH collected data from multiple sources to create healthy housing profiles for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. as a whole. Profiles examine the need for affordable housing, healthy housing funding, the level of childhood lead poisoning, the prevalence of asthma, and an assessment of the funding needed to adequately address healthy housing issues in the state. [url; NCHH]

City and County Profiles: Data Sources
There is a variety of data that communities can use to help with their community health and housing assessments. The following provide examples of the types of indicators that might be helpful to create a health profile of your community, along with examples of sources from which data could be collected. Although not every state or local jurisdiction has the same type of public health system, the resources provide examples of nationally available data, as well as the state/local agency that might be responsible for collecting the identified indicator at the local level.

  • Healthy Homes Data
    This NCHH-developed presentation outlines the type of data useful for assessing housing and health conditions, a variety of ways to showcase the information, and where potentially to find the data (a federal, state, or local agency that collects and stores such data, for example). It also advises regarding mistakes to avoid making, consideration of appropriate geographic levels, and the benefit of pairing quantitative data with stories. [ppt; NCHH, 2014]
  • Health Facts Profiles
    These sample profiles of health data, provided for each county and metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in Texas, provide data on demographics, socioeconomics, communicable diseases, births, and deaths with comparisons to statewide averages. [url; pdf; Texas Department of State Health Services, 2013]
  • 2015 Dallas Map Book 
    The Dallas Map Book is a comprehensive set of maps of housing quality indicators in Dallas, obtained through City of Dallas permit, tax assessment, code enforcement data, and census data. The maps include homes assessed as “very poor quality” or “unsound,” liens, vacant properties, poverty data, and more.
    [url; pdf; Dallas Area Habitat]

Aggregated Data Sources

Although the data may not always be at the geographic level necessary, aggregated data sources can be useful when creating city- or countywide data profiles.

  • Example:
    This open federal government data site aggregates metadata from open data resources in one centralized location. Although the data is primarily federal-level, interested state and local governments can also collect and display metadata resources on the site. Participating states and localities vary, as do posted data sets. HUD has 174 data sets currently on the site, including the Housing Affordability Data System (HADS). Local data on crime, children’s blood lead levels, and other issues directly related to health are available from a few cities and counties. Because the data source is linked directly to the site, metadata can be updated as often as every 24 hours, depending on the data and their original source. [url;]
  • Example: City-Data
    City-Data features interactive maps and a broad range of data at the city and neighborhood level, such as crime rates, cost of living, real estate sales and trends, cost of housing, and access to hospitals, schools, and libraries. [url; City-Data]

Data Mapping Technologies
Emerging technologies, such as those created by LocalData and SeeClickFix, provide applications that residents, volunteers, and surveyors can use to easily identify, report, and map community health hazards and other issues, such as vacant or dilapidated housing.

  • Example: Layers of Data
    This resource addresses the collaboration between community groups, the Center for Housing and Community Studies (UNC, Greensboro), and the GIS mapping project that explored connections between neighborhoods and health in Greensboro and its surrounding county. Initially focused only on connections between asthma and housing quality, it was expanded to include other health conditions, such as infant mortality, low birth weight, falls, and cancers that may be related to housing and community. Community factors in the mapping project include vacant or abandoned homes, housing code violations, and other measured environmental conditions. [url; YesWeekly]
  • Example: Loveland’s Passion: Battle Blight
    Loveland’s Passion highlights the use of technology to identify blighted areas and feed property data and information directly to a system that maps and catalogues it. The back-end system and app discussed in the article allowed the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force to map and catalogue 385,000 properties in under nine weeks. [url; Crain’s Detroit Business]