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Renters in America

Improving the Quality of Affordable Housing Benefits Renters and Owners Alike

Families can have their health supported by their homes — or they can be threatened by pests, mold, poor air quality, carbon monoxide, and other hazards.

In the affordable housing space, housing conditions are inexorably tied to the investments made by rental property owners. We know that safe, healthy, and energy efficient housing is beneficial for residents, public health, and society at large, but is it beneficial to rental property owners specifically? Fortunately, the answer is yes.

A rental property that meets the eight principles of healthy housing — dry, clean, safe, well-ventilated, pest-free, contaminant-free, well maintained, and thermally controlled — leads to residents who are more stable, healthier, and have more disposable income that can be spent on rent.

The cost of healthcare

There was a strong enough body of evidence back in 2012 when the U.S. Surgeon General published a Call to Action to Promote Healthy Homes, and the linkages between housing quality and conditions like asthma, falls, carbon monoxide poisoning, burns, and cardiovascular events is only growing stronger. And healthier residents are a boon for landlords. If a parent is in the hospital due to their child’s asthma being exacerbated by mold, that parent is not at work. Co-pays, medications, and other healthcare costs reduce the ability of low and moderate-income families to consistently pay their rent.

Furthermore in some jurisdictions, laws have been passed that limit the ability owners to collect rent if a resident can prove that the home is in violation of a code or other standard, like being free from lead-based paint hazards. In Maryland, one of the states with the earliest and strongest laws to protect tenants from lead-based paint hazards, none of the early fears around a reduced market for rental properties has born out.

Keeping tenants happy

Property owners should also consider the fact that lower income families are often the most transient families, and this comes with significant cost in terms of vacancy periods, marketing, and getting a rental unit prepared for a new tenant. Families that live in an apartment that is higher quality stay in that apartment for longer.

Those higher quality apartments also allow owners to market them at a higher rate, which families can better afford because of the reduced expenses from healthcare and utility costs.

Improving the health and safety and energy efficiency of affordable housing stock truly is a win-win for all parties involved. Rental property owners should make those investments and benefit from healthier and more stable tenants with more disposable income.

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