New Study Ranks Housing Conditions in Major Metropolitan Areas Across the Nation

State of Healthy Housing Press Release

Media Contact: Phillip Dodge, 443-539-4168,
New Study Ranks Housing Conditions in Major Metropolitan Areas Across the Nation

Columbia, MD (September 24, 2009) – The nonprofit National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) has released the results of The State of Healthy Housing, a comprehensive study of housing conditions in 45 metropolitan areas of the nation. The new report reveals a critical need to improve housing conditions in many U.S. cities because home environments have a direct impact on the health of residents.

According to The State of Healthy Housing, the metropolitan areas of Charlotte, North Carolina, Anaheim-Santa Ana, California, and Atlanta, Georgia, rank at the top of the list for having the healthiest housing. At the bottom of the list for having the least healthy housing are the metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles, California, and New York City.

“The State of Healthy Housing is intended to shine a light on the housing conditions that exist in the United States,” said Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing. “We’ve known about the health impacts of poor housing conditions since the 19th century when slums were recognized as leading to outbreaks of cholera, tuberculosis, and other communicable diseases. This report is the first of its kind and will help determine where problems exist so that we can create an action plan to ensure healthy homes are accessible to all families.”

NCHH created the first-ever national healthy housing indicator by identifying 20 key housing characteristics that relate to occupant health from the US Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey. The areas of concern include: Inadequate kitchen and bath facilities; deficient electrical, heating or plumbing systems; ventilation and moisture problems; pests; and poorly maintained building elements. The most common problems identified include water leaks, roofing problems, damaged interior walls, and signs of mice.

“Notwithstanding today’s headlines regarding falling home prices, The State of Healthy Housing underscores the need to improve housing conditions across the country,” said Nicolas P. Retsinas, director of Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies. “The report documents that healthy homes remain elusive for far too many homeowners and renters.  The findings in this report should motivate government, business and nonprofit leaders to come together to ensure that all families have a decent place to live.”

“Charlotte is a community where the public and private sector have worked together to improve housing conditions and neighborhoods,” says Mayor Pat McCrory. “Our housing, neighborhood and economic development polices have proven to be sound and have enabled us to balance fiscal and program resources while meeting the needs of citizens.”

The State of Healthy Housing report compared owner-occupied dwellings with rental properties across 45 metropolitan areas of the country and examined conditions in central city housing compared with housing located outside the central city. The results reveal that across metropolitan statistical areas, rental properties tend to have more problems than owner-occupied dwellings and central city housing has more problems than housing located outside the central city. Although there are exceptions to these trends, central city rental properties are typically older and because of limited housing choices, are more likely to be inhabited by lower income residents.

Although HUD planned to update the data for metropolitan areas every 6 years, budget cuts have dramatically reduced the frequency and numbers of households reached through the surveys. This dearth of current housing condition data leaves cities in a lurch as they try to evaluate the impact of their housing programs and policies.

“Some city leaders have made housing a key priority and the impact of their efforts will not be reflected in our study without updated information from AHS,” said Jonathan Wilson NCHH’s Deputy Director and lead author of the study. “We hope that city leaders will join NCHH in advocating for more frequent and comprehensive housing surveys so that we can monitor important trends and areas for improvement.”

NCHH researchers found that nationally, housing conditions are not significantly better than a decade ago, and may in fact be worse as a result of the current economic crisis and housing foreclosure boom. As such, localities with older data are not more likely to rank poorly in the study. The rankings are generated by comparing a location’s housing conditions to the most similar year of national data.

With as many as six million U.S. families living in substandard housing conditions, the estimated national health care cost associated with environmental-related diseases such as asthma, lead poisoning, and cancer is $54.9 billion a year. NCHH will leverage the State of Healthy Housing results to continue drawing attention to hazards that exist in many homes and will work to educate property owners and residents about ways they can create and maintain a healthy home environment.

The California Endowment provided support for The State of Healthy Housing and complete results of the report are available online at:


The National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) is the only national scientific and technical non-profit organization dedicated to creating healthy and safe homes for America’s children through practical and proven steps. NCHH develops scientifically valid and practical strategies to make homes safe from hazards, to alert low- income families about housing-related health risks, and to help them protect their children.

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