Older homes provide an affordable housing lifeline, but poor conditions often lead to serious health impacts for residents.
A growing field of research reveals the impact that living conditions can have on public health and housing stability, highlighting the need to improve the country’s aging housing stock. According to an article by Patrick Sisson in Bloomberg CityLab, “A study by Rebuilding Together, a nonprofit that provides free home repairs, found that every dollar invested in a home generated $2.84 in social benefits, half of which are savings on health-care spending.”
In the United States, 35 percent of housing stock is over 60 years old, and HUD data shows that 6.7 million U.S. households live in substandard housing. Meanwhile, weather events such as extreme heat waves have a disproportionate impact on the lowest-income households that don’t have access to air conditioning, effective ventilation, or weatherization.
With the link between housing and health becoming clearer, some states are experimenting with using healthcare funding to support home repairs that have an immediate impact on health. However, many federal programs still focus on electrification and efficiency upgrades without addressing more basic repairs often needed in older housing. “It exposes a persistent blind spot in US housing policy — the relentless focus on new construction as the key to the housing crisis, rather than repairing the housing that’s already been built.”
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