Health and Homes

By: Elizabeth Cohen

Across the country there is renewed awareness of the importance of mitigating home health hazards. Some of the most common home health hazards include lead, mold, radiation and asbestos. Often these hazards are expensive to alleviate, yet we know that the effects not only exacerbate problems with peoples’ health, there are also significant economic impacts. Both the health and economic impacts are even greater for low income families. The graphic below shows housing hazards, the resulting health effects and the economic impacts.

Housing Hazards and Effects

From HUD OLHCHH’s presentation “The Impact of Housing Quality on Health”, 2018 (Based on: OLHCHH, 2014, Healthy Homes Rating System Operating Guidance; Loyola University 2015)


According to a 2012 study by Dr. Tyra Bryant-Stephens, Medical Director of CHOP’s Community Asthma Prevention Program (CAPP), door to door asthma screenings in randomly selected block groups in zip code 19104 (which includes most of the Promise Zone) showed a 47.3% asthma rate in children. Of the zip codes screened, 19104 and 19139 had the highest prevalence of asthma and the highest rates of children living in poverty (according to census data). As Dr. Tyra Bryant-Stephens reported in another study, asthma disproportionately affects people of color and low-income populations. And although lead poisoning rates in children have decreased in Philadelphia since the federal government banned lead in paint in 1978 and removed lead from gasoline soon after, lead poisoning is still an issue for many children who live in older houses with lead paint.

The Department of Urban Housing and Development’s (HUD) Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH) addresses health and housing issues on the federal level. OLHCHH provides and monitors grants for producing lead-safe and healthy housing units; provides Technical Studies Grants; enforces lead regulations; develops and promotes guidance and performance criteria; and does outreach to provide education to tenants, homeowners and other stakeholders. The Lead and Healthy Homes Program of the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health provides information, referral and training to promote healthy homes and prevent lead poisoning; offers private in-home services to eligible families, including home inspection and remediation to reduce hazards; and enforces lead laws and regulations, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Law Department. The Department of Public Health was a part of The Philadelphia Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Advisory Group. You can read the group’s 2017 Final Report and Recommendations here.

Home Preservation Initiative (HPI), which is convened by LISC, is a “collaborative service delivery model” which provides home repairs and community health worker visits in specific areas of West Philadelphia with the aim of reducing emergency room visits and hospitalization due to childhood asthma. By showing health care cost savings, HPI also aims to make the case for Medicaid reimbursement for home repairs. HPI was selected to participate in the BUILD Health Challenge which provides funds and technical assistance. Many HPI partners are part of the Promise Zone Housing Committee: Habitat for Humanity, CHOP’s Community Asthma Prevention Program (CAPP), LISC, and Mount Vernon Manor (MVM).

Edward Thomas works in the Program and Regulatory Support Division of the Department of Urban Housing and Development’s (HUD) Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH). He provides technical assistance to grantees, for some of the partners of the Promise Zone Housing Committee such as CHOP’s CAPP program. As a member of the Promise Zone Housing Committee, he is sharing resources and expertise about new housing program models for asthma prevention that the committee can support in Philadelphia. He noted that there are unique challenges in the area for these types of programs. The hope is that through the collective efforts of the Promise Zone Housing Committee we can see progress.


Home Repair Resources

Please note that some programs may have waitlists.

2-1-1 Infoline: Home improvement program information and loan referrals


Home Repair Grants and Free Services


PCA Senior Housing Assistance Repair (SHARP) Program (funded in part by DHCD)


PHDC Basic Systems Repair Program


Home Repair Loan Programs


Federal Programs


PA Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) Programs


PWD’s Homeowner’s Emergency Loan Program (HELP)

For replacing a water service line made of lead (must be tested)


Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia


Asthma Prevention Programs


Community Asthma Prevention Program (CAPP)

Home visits and classes for families with children with asthma to address asthma triggers in the home etc.


Home Modification Programs


U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Programs for Disabled Veterans


PCA Senior Housing Assistance Repair (SHARP) Program (funded in part by DHCD)


PHDC Adaptive Modifications Program


PA Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) Programs


Energy and Weatherization Services


Energy Coordinating Agency

Also includes home repair resources to prepare house for weatherization


PHDC Weatherization Assistance Program


PA Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) Programs


Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia








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