Up to Code: Code Enforcement Strategies for Healthy Housing

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ChangeLab Solutions

Safe, clean, and habitable housing is central to the health of individuals, families, and communities. When housing falls into disrepair or has pests, moisture, inadequate ventilation, and/or chemicals, it has the potential to harm residents. Under these conditions, the home can become an unhealthy, or dangerous, environment. Substandard housing conditions can cause or exacerbate health problems, posing an acute risk to young children, seniors, and people with chronic illnesses.2,3 These conditions can lead to asthma,4 housing-related injuries,5 and elevated lead levels in children,6 among other health outcomes. Local code enforcement programs are the first line of defense in ensuring safe and healthy housing for residents. To be effective, these programs require strong housing codes, well-trained enforcement officers, cross-agency collaboration, partnerships with community agencies, programs to assist residents and property owners, and thoughtful data collection and evaluation. This guide is designed to give an overview of the practices and strategies necessary for code enforcement programs to protect residents and preserve housing effectively. Each chapter addresses a specific component of code enforcement, and offers resources to assist jurisdictions in implementing programs. We use several terms in this guide. We use locality and jurisdiction to refer to towns, cities, counties, and other forms of local government. We use the term property owner to refer to the individual who owns and maintains housing, and the term resident to refer to the person who lives in housing. Occasionally, we use the term renter to refer to renters specifically. Officer is used to refer to an individual who inspects housing, cites for violations, and enforces housing code.

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