Using Code to Improve Health

Housing codes govern the construction and maintenance of our homes, but many only provide minimal safety requirements. As more is learned about the critical impact of housing quality, communities are taking action to ensure codes and local code enforcement protect - and improve - health.

Below are critical resources about housing codes and tools for improving them.

Up to Code: Code Enforcement Strategies for Healthy Housing

Outlines practices and strategies to improve code enforcement policies that support healthy housing, including specific examples of code enforcement programs and community resources.

National Healthy Housing Standard
The National Healthy Housing Standard is a set of science-based minimum performance standards created by the American Public Health Association and NCHH for safe and healthy homes. The Standard features healthy home requirements and stretch provisions in seven key categories, with explanations for each provision about its public health rationale, along with references for more information. It integrates public health information into housing code parlance. The Standard is a tool for property owners, elected officials, code staff, and anyone concerned about housing's interaction with health. [url; NCHH, 2014]

International Code Council (ICC)
Comprehensive set of International Codes (I-Codes) covering all aspects of commercial and residential building. I-Codes include residential (IRC) and property maintenance codes (IPMC), which are the primary resources for codes adopted by most jurisdictions across the country. Learn more about I-Codes that specifically promote healthier, environmentally-friendly buildings. [url; International Code Council]

  • I-Code Adoption
    Scroll down and click your state on the map to learn what I-Codes (including version) have been adopted by your state and (where available) jurisdiction. Note that not all states and local jurisdictions adopt codes as updated (every three years) or set a mechanism in place to adopt updates automatically. Additionally, many states and local jurisdictions create supplemental codes provisions to meet local concerns and priorities. [url; International Code Council, 2014]

Proactive Rental Inspections

Healthy Housing through Proactive Rental Inspection (PRI)
Describes how proactive rental inspection program can promote health and housing quality and provides the key elements of a PRI program. [pdf; ChangeLab Solutions, 2014]

A Guide to the Proactive Rental Inspection Programs

Outlines the benefits to both tenants and property owners of proactive rental inspections, challenges and opportunities in program design, and strategies for successful adoption. [pdf; ChangeLab Solutions, 2014]
Example: Tukwila, WA, Proactive Rental Inspection
[url; City of Tukwila]

Example: Boston's Proactive Rental Inspection Ordinance
Covers about 140,000 rental units and requires landlords to register their rental properties annual and inspections every five years. Chronic offenders (i.e., landlords with noncompliant properties) can be fined and are subject to more frequent inspections. [url; City of Boston]
  • Breathe Easy at Home
    A collaboration of several city agencies, including the Housing Inspection Division, Public Health Commission, and Urban Asthma Coalition, to ensure inspections and related follow-ups are done quickly to resolve substandard housing conditions. Health professionals refer patients with asthma for housing inspections if they suspect housing conditions are triggering asthma. [url; City of Boston]

Addressing Specific Health Hazards through Code Enforcement


Blueprint for Action to Prevent Lead Poisoning (2014)
NCHH guide to actions needed by the government, advocates and the public sector to protect children from lead poisoning, which impacts more than half a million children. [pdf]

Ten Effective Strategies for Preventing Childhood Lead Poisoning through Code Enforcement (2002)
Outlines why lead hazard control should be incorporated in code enforcement, and provides specific strategies to reduce exposure to lead-based hazards. [pdf; Alliance for Healthy Housing, available from HUD]

Toolbook for Initiating Effective Policy Change:
What You Can Do in Your Community to Protect Children from Lead Poisoning (2008)

A comprehensive guide for assessing and developing policies to prevent lead poisoning. Written for local housing and health agencies, the information is relevant to anyone interested in combating lead poisoning. Provides guidance to assess the scope of the issue, model policies, and safe work practices. [pdf; Muskegon County Public Health Department, 2008]

Guidebook for Developing State and Local Lead-Based Paint Enforcement Bench Books (2008)
Guide to help lead poisoning prevention professionals create legal reference manuals ("bench books") for judges adjudicating enforcement cases involving lead-based paint. Although it does not provide a listing of laws for specific jurisdictions, it shows the user how to find relevant laws and compile them into a reference manual designed to educate and increase judges' awareness of lead-paint laws and hazards.
Low Level Lead Exposure Harms Children: A Renewed Call of Primary Prevention (2012)
Policy and strategy recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention; includes guidance on developing and codifying lead-safe housing practices. [url; CDC]

Building Blocks for Primary Prevention - Protecting Children from Lead-Based Paint Hazards (2005)
Comprehensive guide for practitioners, advocates and policy makers to raise awareness, organize the community, secure funding for abatement, and create policies and codes to protect children from lead-based hazards in the home. [url; CDC and the Alliance for Healthy Homes, 2005]

Lead Safe Policy Guidance (2004)
Outlines basic lead-safety standards with a listing of key figures, from legislative authorities to property maintenance staff, responsible for various levels of lead protection efforts. Provides potential opportunities for communities to enhance their codes to improve lead safety and build technical capacity for enforcement.   

Eliminating Childhood Lead Poisoning: A Federal Strategy Targeting Lead Paint Hazards (2000)
Outlines the interagency strategy employed by CDC, HUD, EPA and other federal agencies to eliminate childhood lead poisoning as a public health problem, by 2020. [url; CDC]


How Mold Is Addressed in the I-Codes
Details how I-Codes address minimum requirements for mold prevention and mold remediation. [url; International Code Council].

Mold Provisions in State Codes (2015) 
Lists recent laws and policy strategies adopted by states to address mold and mold remediation. Note: not limited to residential properties. Includes references to AR code related to LIHTC, NY, and DC laws establishing licensing and certification requirements for mold professionals, and landlord disclosure and remediation of mold. [url; Environmental Law Institute]

Example: Housing Standards: Mold (CA Code) 
Newly enacted CA law (SB655, 2016) indicating that violation of mold provisions in CA Code is a misdemeanor punishable by fine or up to one year in the county jail. [url; FindHOALaw]


Radon Overview: State Legislation (2015)
Comprehensive listing of radon legislation at the state level. Contains a review of the impact of radon and links to the EPA Radon Zone. [url; National Conference of State Legislatures]

Building Codes for Radon-Resistant New Construction (RRNC)
Details which ICC, National Fire Association, and ASTM codes address radon in residential building codes and provides links to state code information. [url; EPA]