We spend about 70 percent of our time in our homes. There is now increasing evidence that the indoor environment impacts resident health. While progress has been made in improving the quality of our housing, millions of U.S. homes still report moderate to severe physical housing problems, including roofing problems; heating, plumbing, and electrical deficiencies; water leaks and moisture or mold problems; pests; damaged paint; harmful radon gas; and trip and fall hazards. These types of housing conditions can contribute to a variety of health issues, including unintentional injuries, asthma and respiratory ailments, radon-induced lung cancer, and lead poisoning.
These health issues have impacts beyond health: they may result in children missing school and adults missing work, as well as increased healthcare costs. Environmentally related diseases that include those linked to housing such as lead poisoning, cancer, and asthma have been estimated to cost more than $76 billion annually. Forty percent of asthma cases are associated with indoor and home exposures and alone result in annual costs of $405 million.
While the issue of healthy housing has always been important, it’s become especially urgent with the advent of the Covid-19 virus. In addition, Americans are living longer, and the way in which homes are designed, built, and maintained can support our ability to age in place, allowing families to remain within their support network and continue to be part of the neighborhood fabric to which they are accustomed. There is also growing interest in identifying ways that housing design can help facilitate the health and wellness of families by incorporating innovative active design features.
The Health@Home guidelines were developed in order to enable affordable housing developers or owners to include Healthy Housing principles in their moderate rehabilitation or home repair programs. This website is aimed at helping the user navigate this document and understand its components. Note that for substantial rehabilitation, it is anticipated that housing developers will consider adopting one or more widely green building standards which typically include robust healthy housing criteria; these criteria may overlap with but are not directly addressed in this document.
These housing rehabilitation guidelines focus on the health and well-being of residents by identifying rehab practices that minimize contaminants and injury-causing materials. They are organized around the eight widely accepted Principles of Healthy Homes (shown in the diagram) plus one: Healthy Living and Active Design.
The value-add of these guidelines is that they link specific recommended rehab standards to each of the Healthy Housing Principles. The Guidelines provide an easy-to-use crosswalk between the Principles and commonly-used Rehab or Property Standards. Each page of this website is dedicated to a specific Principle (Section A). Additionally, each Principle is linked to specific rehab standards (Section B) organized by building component (foundation, site development, roofing etc.) to enable users to easily incorporate these elements in their existing rehab standards.
Note that HUD expects to update these guidelines on an on-going basis, based on feedback from users and advances in building technologies and practice.