What is a Healthy Home?
According to the National Center for Healthy Housing, a healthy home is housing that is designed, constructed, maintained, and rehabilitated in a manner that is conducive to good occupant health. At WE ACT, we often engage with healthy homes topics as they relate to lead, mold, or other indoor environmental health issues. For us a healthy home also includes other aspects of a community including waste, pests, and pesticides, noise pollution and other factors that impact our health.
About the Campaign
Established in 1934, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) was the first and is currently the largest public housing authority in the United States. It provides affordable housing to nearly 600,000 New Yorkers in 326 developments across the five boroughs of New York City.
NYCHA, however, faces a myriad of problems – most of which are tied to the fact that it has been chronically underfunded for years. As a result, the New Yorkers who rent apartments in NYCHA developments often have to endure environmental challenges such as mold, lead, and pests along with substandard service in terms of repairs and other basic issues.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we spend approximately 90 percent of our lives indoors. That’s why the indoor environmental threats and other challenges that NYCHA tenants face are such a grave concern.
Building on our legacy of leadership on the indoor environment and our work in support of NYCHA residents, WE ACT for Environmental Justice launched its NYCHA Healthy Homes campaign in 2020. WE ACT is organizing NYCHA residents in preparation for the 2021 New York City Council and Mayoral races. Our goal is to mobilize and engage residents, raise awareness of the health inequities they face, and develop leaders who can advocate on behalf of the NYCHA community to ensure that protecting public housing and improving their living conditions is a top priority for the 2021 candidates.
Campaign Focus Areas
The NYCHA Healthy Homes Campaign work began with recommendations from our Dyckman Villages report, to narrow down a focus for the campaign agenda. Of the eight topics, two revealed themselves to be most pressing – NYCHA Operations and Safety & Security. After much discussion amongst the group, voting and breakout sessions, the following areas were considered to be most important to advocate around for this campaign.
Maintenance issues such as broken elevators and boilers, impaired surveillance cameras and intercoms, and other maintenance issues significantly impacts residents’ daily activities. These issues can severely impact health. Broken elevators can cause older residents to stay isolated in their units, or can trigger respiratory illness on a hot day from overexertion. NYCHA building maintenance is fundamental to climate resiliency as energy efficiency, access to adequate heating and cooling, and retrofitting are key to ensuring that resident health is prioritized in a changing climate. Living in a healthy environment is key to gaining social capital and strengthening their physical and mental health.
Building Safety & Security
By ensuring the safety and accountability within the resident environment, there will be more opportunity to positively influence behaviors/patterns and interactions amongst residents. Therefore, home environments will feel safer; preventing or reducing the health effects of chronic stress, and preserving environmental health. According to the NYCHA federal monitor, improvements on safety and security are a much-needed addition to addressing NYCHA operations issues as well.
Resident Input & Decision Making
Allowing residents to govern the operations in NYCHA living environments that directly affect their day to day lives will be empowering and an effective method to create a more nurturing environment. Empowering residents to lead the housing operations that directly impact them will make their living environment more predictable and non-threatening. By creating a more nurturing environment which is apparently predictable and non-threatening will prevent or reduce the health effects of chronic stress.
To join WE ACT’s Healthy Homes Working Group, reach out to Charles Callaway, WE ACT’s Director of Organizing, at email@example.com.
To join WE ACT’s NYCHA Healthy Homes campaign, reach out to Taylor Morton, WE ACT’s Director of Environmental Health & Education, at firstname.lastname@example.org.