The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), in collaboration with The Ohio State University College of Public Health, conducted a health impact assessment (HIA) to inform decisions on a proposal to improve interagency coordination and streamline the current system for housing inspections on affordable housing units. At present, different inspections are conducted or required by local housing authorities, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Housing inspections help identify and remedy substandard physical conditions, like water leaks and mold, pests, peeling paint, and structural hazards which can contribute to a wide range of health problems including asthma, injury and burns, and mental illness. The proposed policy would indirectly impact nearly 35,000 units and directly impact 5,000 units of affordable multi-family housing in Ohio.
The HIA found that 85.1% of physical housing inspections resulted in at least one health-related quality issue. The prevalence of specific health-related violations in housing units, such as pests, mold, and air quality, varied by funding agency, project size, and project age. The HIA found inconsistency among inspectors both within and across agencies, complicating the extent to which housing problems could remain unidentified with fewer inspections. The HIA also found that tenants with disabilities had the greatest difficulty preparing for physical inspections.
The HIA made several recommendations to minimize the negative health impacts that could be caused by a reduction in the frequency of physical housing inspections, including: implementing a single standard that is most likely to find health-related quality and safety problems across agencies to improve consistency in reporting and non-compliance remediation; establish training to increase the quality of physical inspection reports; and develop and implement a risk-based inspection agenda that focuses resources, streamlines inspection schedules based on housing and individual tenant characteristics, and is protective of adverse exposures to health.
The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing, Ohio State University, College of Public Health, USDA Rural Development office, and HUD have all expressed support for this project.