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Making Our Homes Safe and Healthy

Jon L. Gant, Director of HUD's Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control, reports on progress made under the Recovery Act to keep our homes and children safe from lead paint.

Ed. Note: Cross-posted from the HUD Blog

When my wife and I were expecting our first daughter, there was so much preparation to do before she arrived - as any parent could tell you. The list felt like it was a mile long - diapers, clothes, formula, a car seat and stroller. I could go on and on. But one of the most important things on the list was ensuring that our home was ready for our daughter, and that she had a safe and healthy place to grow up in.

We were of course aware of lead-based paint and the harmful effects it can have on young children.  Because even though lead-based paint was banned in 1978, we knew that many homes still face significant lead-based paint hazards.  That was the case in our older neighborhood.

That experience reaffirmed for me our shared belief as Americans that every family should be able to live in a safe, healthy home.  And thanks to the wonderful work of our dedicated team at HUD and our grantees in cities and counties around the country, we’ve already reduced the number of children with lead poisoning by 75 percent over the last decade. Stated differently, the percentage of children that test positive for lead poisoning has been reduced from over 8% to less than 1%. 

And when Vice President Biden announced in May 2009 that HUD would be awarding nearly $100 million in Recovery Act Funds to help eliminate dangerous lead-based paint and other health and safety hazards from low-income homes, we were able to make even more progress. Thanks in part to Recovery Act funding, HUD was able to make over 16,700 homes safe from lead paint and other health hazards in the last year alone. 

But now it’s time to take our progress to the next level. That’s why today, HUD awarded nearly $127 million in grants to 48 local projects to protect children and families from potentially dangerous lead-based paint and other home health and safety hazards. This grant funding will clean up lead and other health hazards in more than 11,000 homes, train workers in lead safety methods and increase public awareness about childhood lead poisoning.  And to address homes that are simply too unsafe or unhealthy for children and the elderly, $10 million of these funds will address housing-related health hazards, such as mold and moisture, fire hazards, radon and carbon monoxide poisoning.

We know that healthier homes are good for families – which is why we have posted HUD’s Seven Healthy Homes Principles on our website. 

But we also know that they are good for the taxpayer, thanks to a recent Pew Center on the States report that found that every dollar spent on controlling lead hazards could return at least $17 to Americans in the form of health benefits, higher lifetime earnings, tax revenues, and lower special education costs.  Seventeen-to-one is a pretty astonishing return for the taxpayer.

It was important for me to ensure that my home was safe and healthy for my family – and all of us at HUD want to make sure every other family can do the same. Our goal should be nothing less than ensuring every home in America is designed, built, rehabbed and maintained to support the health and economic security of American families. You can’t be healthy if your home is sick.

Moving us closer to that goal is what today’s announcement is all about.