Pest control in multifamily housing is challenging. Residents' housekeeping practices vary, as does their tolerance for pests. Maintenance is a never-ending battle. Pests move easily from one unit to another, and everyone must respect residents' privacy and independence.
Health Effects of Pests:
Pests, such as cockroaches and mice, are associated with asthma attacks. Cockroaches may cause asthma in children, while rats carry disease and can start fires. Flies spread disease. Bedbugs are back.
Extent of Problem:
More than half of the residents in public housing and Section 8 properties surveyed in 2004 reported having problems with rodents and insects indoors. Seventeen percent (17%) had problems most or all of the time. Other studies suggest that the problem is worse: A HUD-funded Purdue University study found that 71% of a public housing development had active infestation, yet only 22% of the residents with an infestation reported the problem. Eighty percent (80%) had used sprays and foggers to control for cockroaches, and almost 60% had taken matters into their own hands for mice (see Pest Conditions Case Study).
In the case of cockroaches, persistent housekeeping problems have begun to undermine the effectiveness of bait stations and gels, our most effective pesticides to control them (see Bait Aversion Case Study).
Traditional Pest Control versus IPM:
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a different approach than traditional pest control. It emphasizes eliminating nesting places, as well as sources of food and water for the pests, and it excludes the pests from the home. It uses the safest pesticide in the safest manner only when necessary. Studies by Purdue University and Virginia Tech show that it is more effective and, once pests are under control, cost effective (see the Cost Comparisons Case Study). Programs at Boston Housing Authority, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, and in Salinas, California highlight the promise of IPM.
On February 3, 2006, HUD issued its Guidance on Integrated Pest Management. HUD renewed the guidance on May 24, 2007. The guidance identifies 10 elements of an effective IPM program. It states that the "goal of IPM (per the Environmental Protection Agency) is to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment."
The National Center for Healthy Housing has developed tools and resources to help property managers, staff, residents, and pest management professionals implement an integrated pest management program. Funding from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Pesticide Program and Battelle made this work possible. The ongoing support and guidance from HUD and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Environmental Health were essential as well.