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Making poor housing conditions healthier

During my time as a pediatric neurosurgeon, I saw firsthand the importance of a healthy place to call home for the physical and mental wellbeing of a family. It always pained me to send a young child home from the hospital when I knew they were not returning to a healthy home.

That’s why I am proud of our efforts at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure the health and safety of homes across America.

Earlier this month, HUD awarded more than $163 million to protect families from lead and other home health and safety hazards. These investments will protect families and children by targeting significant lead and health hazards in over 14,000 low-income homes for which other resources are not available.

The average American spends about 70% of his or her time at home, and–unsurprisingly–there is strong evidence to suggest that the condition of the home is a significant factor in a person’s wellbeing.

Poor housing conditions, which range from roofing problems to inadequate plumbing, are associated with a variety of adverse health effects, such as lead poisoning.

This announcement is a continuation of extraordinary efforts over the last 3.5 years to reduce residential lead exposure. We firmly believe that no family should have to worry about this often-hidden hazard in their home.

I am pleased to report that HUD’s commitment to ensuring safe and healthy homes for all Americans has diminished that threat.

Our programs have reduced the risk of lead exposure in children based on race, ethnicity, income, and location of residence. Our enforcement of lead safety regulations has also made over 200,000 homes lead safe for low-income families, and protected 860,000 children under age six from lead’s most dangerous effects in those homes.

As a physician, a father, and a grandfather, I cannot overstate how proud I am of the fact that nearly one million young children no longer face the disastrous developmental impacts of lead in their day to day lives from these efforts.

HUD is providing these grants through its Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction (LBPHR) Grant Program to identify and clean up dangerous lead in low-income families’ homes. These grants also include over $17 million from HUD’s Healthy Homes Supplemental funding to help communities with housing-related health and safety hazards in addition to lead-based paint hazards.

Chautauqua County is set to receive $3 million to tackle lead paint hazards in low-income communities. These funds are expected to remove lead paint in 120 to 150 homes within the county.

In his inaugural address, President Trump promised that, “the forgotten men and women of America will no longer be forgotten.” At HUD, we are proud to partake in that noble mission, and our lead paint reduction efforts in Chautauqua County are proof that this promise is being kept.

Ben Carson is secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

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