History and Accomplishments, 1992-1999

During this decade, the National Center for Lead-Safe Housing, which would later be renamed the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH), was founded to bring together researchers, housing professionals, advocates, and others to chart the nation’s path to primary prevention of childhood lead poisoning. In the early years, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) challenged the center to compose a definitive source of national technical guidelines for dealing with lead-based paint, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked the center to develop robust scientific studies in order to understand the sources and pathways of lead exposure, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested research to assess the hazards of lead-contaminated dust. Cushing Dolbeare, a preeminent affordable housing advocate and board member of both the new center and the Alliance for Healthy Homes, chaired a congressionally chartered task force in 1995 with a vision for making the nation’s housing stock lead-safe, demanding changes in state and local laws, regulations, and ordinances.


With funding from the Teresa and H. John Heinz III Foundation (now the Heinz Awards), the Center published Another Link in the Chain with the Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, documenting the lead case management and environmental follow-up policies of 50 states and the District of Columbia. Two years later, NCHH and the Alliance returned with a revised text.


The Center completed a HUD-funded study to improve the effectiveness of the Lead Risk Assessment protocol. Over 250 homes with young children enrolled in the study in Baltimore, Milwaukee, and New York City.


NCHH completed the first national evaluation of the HUD lead hazard control grant program, demonstrating that treated housing units reduced blood lead levels by 37% and lead dust by 78%.


The Center helped nine states develop certification programs for contractors working with lead-based paint hazards.


Title X of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1992 mandated that the secretary of HUD establish a task force to make recommendations on lead-based paint (LBP) hazard reduction and financing for private housing. The Center’s board and staff played key roles in the congressionally chartered Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction and Financing Task Force, which included representatives of the broad array of interests affected by lead hazards in housing, including rental property owners and managers, lenders and insurers, real estate agents, physicians and public health experts, contractors, state and local government officials, and advocates for tenants’ rights, environmental protection, and affordable housing. Despite the range of interests represented, the task force reached almost unanimous agreement on a set of recommendations that offer a vision for achieving lead safety through the nation’s housing stock.


The Center developed the first comprehensive Guidelines for the Evaluation and Control of Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Housing (published in 1995), with funding from HUD. Dr. David Jacobs was the principal author, and other NCHH staff and partners contributed as well.


The Center designed and managed the groundbreaking Rochester Lead-in-Dust Study, which established the relationship between settled lead dust levels and blood lead levels in children.


The National Center for Lead-Safe Housing (the Center) was created on September 4, 1992, using a $5.2 million donation from Fannie Mae Foundation’s outgoing president David Maxwell. The Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning (a.k.a. Alliance for Healthy Homes, a District of Columbia-based nonprofit organization) and the Enterprise Foundation (now Enterprise Community Partners) served as parent organizations, and the Center became the first national joint venture between affordable housing and environmental public health advocates. Walter G. “Nick” Farr, a vice president with Enterprise, was asked to lead the new nonprofit. Joining Farr as the deputy director at the fledgling organization was Dr. David Jacobs, a technical expert on lead-based paint safety. The two men assembled a team of researchers, housing professionals, advocates, and others to chart the nation’s path to primary prevention of childhood lead poisoning.