August, 2014
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



New National Healthy Housing Standard

SALLY CHAPRALIS

New National Healthy Housing Standard

Balancing public health with housing affordability

When the National Center for Healthy Housing and the American Public Health Association introduced the new National Healthy Housing Standard on May 16 in Washington, DC, it responded to a critical need and considerable research.

So many people do not understand that their own homes are the cause of their own or their children’s health problems. This information gap underscores the need for professional home inspections that can identify hazards and potential health concerns…thus saving lives, lost days at school and work, and health care costs.

“The new Standard meets the challenge of balancing public health with housing affordability,” says Jane Malone, Policy Director, National Center for Healthy Housing. “The Standard is a health-focused property maintenance policy targeting the nation’s 100 million existing homes: single-family and multifamily, rental and owner-occupied.”

“Housing is an important social determinant of health. New homes are typically safer and healthier today, built according to modern building standards, technologies and regulations in response to market demand,” Malone says, “But new construction is only a fraction of the overall housing stock. Owners of existing housing may not be knowledgeable about housing-related illnesses and diseases. As a society we have only relatively recently understood the potential health problems associated with excessive ventilation and moisture.”

Health and Housing

NCHH research revealed that 35 million (40 percent) of metropolitan homes in the U.S. have one or more health and safety hazards. The release explains that 20 to 30 percent of asthma cases are linked to home environmental conditions. About 21,000 lung cancer deaths result from radon in homes. Over 24 million homes have lead-based paint hazards that put children at the risk of irreversible neurologic effects of childhood lead poisoning. Home injuries are the leading cause of death for young children, and put six million adults over 65 in hospitals or nursing homes due to falls that often preventable.

National Healthy Housing Standard – Overview

The new Standard consists of seven chapters that cover requirements and stretch provisions, a section on Definitions, and an Annotation section for each provision that explains public health rationale and offer references for more information.

Chapters include:

•Duties of Owners and Occupants

•Structures, Facilities, Plumbing, and Space Requirements

•Safety and Personal Security

•Lighting and Electrical Systems

•Thermal Comfort, Ventilation, and Energy Efficiency

•Moisture Control, Solid Waste and Pest Management

•Chemical and Radiological Agents

The following link will lead you to full versions of the new Standard as well as other resources and background information: www.nchh.org/standard.aspx

Calls to Action

“The Surgeon General’s Call to Action and the federal agencies’ recent Strategy for Action are stimulating action at the local, state and national levels to make homes healthier,” Malone says. “From our work with advocates and government agencies at all levels, we came to realize that the healthy home movement needed the National Healthy Housing Standard.”

Advancing Healthy Housing: A Strategy for Action (federal strategy- 2013) - The Standard fulfills the first goal, to establish criteria for healthy homes

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/healthy_homes/advhh

Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Healthy Homes – 2009 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44192/

Collection of articles re healthy homes including summary of some research evidence – “Healthy Homes” supplemental issue of Public Health Management Practice (2010) http://journals.lww.com/jphmp/toc/2010/09001 (we could provide more research sources but these articles with one exception are pretty good)

State of Healthy Housing - alerts policymakers and advocates in the nation’s largest 55 metro areas included in the report about the housing conditions in their communities. http://www.nchh.org/Policy/2013StateofHealthyHousing.aspx

Home buyers, home sellers, rental property owners, and home inspectors: the new National Healthy Housing Standard is here for all of us.