Sadie Bograd, Contributing Photographer

In a city full of aging homes, a new federal grant could help New Haven officials address residents’ health and safety in the near future.

At a press conference on Monday, Mayor Justin Elicker announced that New Haven will receive $2 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to counteract health hazards in local homes. The grant will support New Haven’s Healthy Homes Program, which builds on the city’s lead reduction work to address mold, radon and other dangers. In addition, companies like that radon mitigation in louisville can help address such concerns.

“Nothing is more important to kids’ health than their homes,” Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said. “Nothing is more important to kids’ health than moisture, mildew, air quality, pests. That’s why investing in the structures of homes is so important.” 

Housing-related environmental problems are a significant cause of pediatric and adult health conditions, from asthma to lead poisoning. Approximately 30 percent of asthma cases are connected to mold, dust, smoke and other contaminants found in the home, according to the National Center for Healthy Housing. In-home secondhand smoke and radon exposure are among the leading causes of lung cancer. Sixty-four percent of carbon monoxide exposures also occur in the home, which can lead to long-term neurological and cardiorespiratory problems.

These issues are especially pronounced in New Haven, where 70 percent of all houses were built prior to 1978, the year the federal government banned lead-based paint for consumer use, according to Environmental Health Program Director Rafael Ramos. These older homes are more likely to have health and safety issues, especially when residents cannot afford to repair them. 

In the Elm City, aging homes also hinder academic and social success among local youth. Blumenthal said that asthma, which is aggravated by unhealthy housing conditions, is the city’s leading cause of absenteeism. He added that these problems can “cause a child to be absent from school and also absent from the playground.” 

The Healthy Homes Program focuses on identifying and repairing buildings in low-income areas, Health Director Maritza Bond said at the press conference. 

The grant will build on the city’s previous efforts to address lead contamination in homes. Elicker said that because of lead’s impact on young children’s brain development, addressing lead issues has remained a priority among city officials in recent years. He added that in the last two years, the city has revamped its lead policies, increased the number of housing inspectors, and handled its backlog of lead inspections. New Haven also settled a class action lead-poisoning lawsuit last year, which required the city to inspect the homes of all young children with high blood levels of lead. 

With additional funds from HUD, the city can expand its focus to other housing issues, including radon, mold, weatherization issues, tripping hazards and pesticides, Ramos said on Monday. 

“This two million dollars is a really big deal because it significantly adds to the work that we’re doing in New Haven to keep people safe in their homes, and in particular people that are vulnerable,” Elicker said. “This will empower our team, with this two million dollars over the next two years, to address 200 homes and significantly improve the safety for not just young people, but other community members.” 

Officials emphasized that the grant will also have long-term economic benefits for the city. Blumenthal said that addressing health hazards now will prevent future hospitalizations and treatments. Ramos added that the Healthy Homes Program will collaborate with the Office of Small Business Affairs to hire local contractors, thus promoting economic development. 

In addition to fighting the pandemic, the Health Department has “looked for opportunities as such so that we can make sure that we can improve the lives of individuals,” Bond said. “Because we know that when individuals have healthy homes, they can have better health outcomes.” 

New Haven residents who are concerned about hazards in their own homes can contact the program by phone or email or via their healthcare providers and social workers. Ramos said that the program would partner with local nonprofits, utility companies and medical institutions to increase its impact, and that inspectors from the Livable City Initiative would also identify houses that could benefit from the program. 

The city was one of 60 nonprofits and government agencies nationwide to receive funding through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Healthy Homes Production Grant Program.

Sadie Bograd covers Nonprofits and Social Services. Last year, she covered City Hall. Originally from Kentucky, she is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in Urban Studies.