Analysis, Health and Fitness

Center for American Progress Issues Recommendations to Improve Safety and Reduce Health Hazards Where Low-Income Families Live

A man walks past a blighted building in Baltimore

A man walks past a blighted building in the Penn-North neighborhood of Baltimore, with a residential tower in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood in the background at top right, on May 9, 2015. Source: AP/Patrick Semansky

Washington, D.C. —(ENEWSPF)–July 20, 2016.  A new report released today by the Center for American Progress addresses the possible long-term health effects and economic impact of underinvesting in low-income communities. The report makes recommendations to federal policymakers on how to ensure low-income families live in environments conducive to their success. CAP recommendations include greater funding for efforts to fight lead poisoning and investing in community-based violence reduction programs.

Today at CAP

The report is being released in conjunction with a discussion on addressing lead exposure in low-income communities. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro will deliver keynote remarks and a panel will follow.

More than 30 million housing units in U.S. have significant physical or health hazards. Physically inadequate public housing puts residents—especially more vulnerable groups such as children, seniors, and people with disabilities—at risk for lead poisoning, asthma, and illnesses caused by exposure to weather. The report also focuses on the impact of neighborhood violence and the barriers to public housing facing low-income families.

“It’s not just the structural factors of housing that can leave low-income families physically and economically affected but the health and safety of the neighborhood matters greatly, too,” said Tracey Ross, Associate Director of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at CAP. “Every American deserves to live in a place that is clean, healthy, and safe. We need a comprehensive, national commitment to ensure that everyone lives in an environment conducive to their success.”

To ensure more accessible, safer, and healthier homes for American families, CAP issued the following policy recommendations:

  • Increase funding for efforts to fight lead poisoning, including HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes and the CDC’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention program.
  • Incorporate a focus on health in place-based initiatives, such as building on the work of the Promise Zones initiative.
  • Provide adequate funding for the federal housing voucher program.
  • Preserve affordable rental housing.
  • Ensure adequate, affordable, accessible housing for Americans with disabilities.
  • Invest in community-based violence reduction programs.

The report addresses how exposure to violent neighborhood crime can have lasting effects, the most common of which is the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. This is especially concerning in children whose exposure to violent crime can cause impaired cognitive availability and poor academic performance. These unsafe housing environments not only leave individuals vulnerable to physical and mental health problems, they also take a large toll on the American economy. The economic cost of asthma alone is more than $56 billion.

Key facts and figures

  • Each year, lead poisoning affects an estimated 535,000 children younger than age 6.
  • Children who are lead poisoned are seven times more likely to drop out of school and six times more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system.
  • On average, 1 out of every 10 school-aged children has asthma, resulting in 2 million emergency room visits, 500,000 hospitalizations, 14 million missed school days, and more than $56 billion in economic costs each year.
  • Researchers have estimated that the rate of PTSD among residents of poor urban communities may be as high as 40 percent.
  • Only 3 percent of households in public housing with a disabled member actually have a unit with accessibility features.
  • Estimates suggest that 6 million housing units have moderate to severe physical infrastructure problems.
  • 8 million housing units have elevated levels of radon, and 17 million homes have high exposure to indoor allergens.
  • Approximately 23 million housing units in the United States have one or more lead-based paint hazards.

Read the full report, “Creating Safe and Healthy Living Environments for Low-Income Families,” by Tracey Ross, Chelsea Parsons, and Rebecca Vallas online here.

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