When it comes to affordable housing inspections, less may be more efficient but could also mean more health risks for residents.
[Photo: Dr. Liz Klein]
The Ohio Housing Finance Agency proposed cutting back the number of affordable housing inspections. The original belief was that residents would benefit from the lack of government officials bombarding their houses through a slew of separate appointments and that the agencies are able to maintain a more cost-efficient schedule. However, new research out of Ohio State’s College of Public Health revealed that despite less interruptions, tenants are at a higher risk of health problems due to the risk of inaccurately performed inspections.
“Housing has a direct impact on the health of tenants,” said Dr. Liz Klein, assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Public Health. “Our health impact assessment (HIA) findings underscore the need for a standardized physical inspection tool that can streamline efficiencies across federal agencies, and aid in the identification of those housing quality issues that impact the health of the vulnerable populations living in affordable housing.”
According to research, residents who live in poorly maintained housing may be more prone to asthma, chronic disease, obesity, depression and anxiety. These health problems are accelerated in communities with affordable housing.
The HIA report found that decreasing the numerous inspections could reduce the opportunity to identify health threats. However, it also identified that strengthening and standardizing inspections protocols would have a bigger positive impact on residents’ health.
Dr. Klein’s suggestions in the HIA report are trifold. The first component is to implement a consistent standard across all agencies involved in the inspection process. This includes the use of a physical inspection tool. The second component is to establish ongoing training that will shape the reports to hold more accurate information and educate the inspectors on housing- related health issues. Lastly, Dr. Klein proposes the development and implementation of a risk-based inspection agenda that eliminates unnecessary inspections while promoting efforts that detract from unsafe housing practices.
With one of the largest portfolios of affordable rental housing units in the nation, Ohio was an optimal location to assess the proposal’s impact.
Read the Ohio Housing Finance Agency news release here.