During a pandemic, living in a healthy home is more important than ever. But, as the Healthy Homes bill points out, viruses aren’t the only thing that can impact your health at home.
The Healthy Homes bill (also known as House Bill 2842 or HB 2842) was presented to the Oregon State Legislature in 2021. If passed, HB 2842 will help improve the health of families across the state with $10 million dedicated to supporting necessary home upgrades.
Championed by representatives Pam Marsh, Karin A. Power and Khanh Pham, HB 2842 will provide support for improvements for low-income households and landlords by:
- Making homes more energy efficient to reduce heating and cooling costs.
- Providing refuge from poor outdoor air quality, including wildfire smoke.
- Making homes more resistant to disasters.
- Providing an overall healthier living environment to help avoid risks to occupants’ health.
By accomplishing these goals, the Healthy Homes bill can reduce health problems within low-income families, decreasing the amount of sick days they may need to take from work or school. These home improvements can also help prevent visits to the emergency room, which reduces the burden on local health care systems in a time when they need it most.
House Bill 2842 is part of the Oregon Clean Energy Opportunity Campaign, a statewide initiative led by climate and environmental justice groups to reduce utility costs for struggling Oregonians, advocate for the health of local families and promote economic development in the renewable energy sector by creating jobs. The organizers believe that Oregon has the power to directly improve lives by increasing the quality and efficiency of the statewide housing stock.
According to the campaign, more than half of Oregonians live in housing that was built prior to 1978, which means there are many homes in the state that are likely inefficient or in need of critical repairs. Low-income families are at higher risk of the health effects that living in an unhealthy home can cause, such as hospital visits linked to mold, cold weather or outdoor air quality.
Here, we’ll take a closer look at the specifics of the Healthy Homes bill and how it could benefit you.
The Healthy Homes Repair Fund
To accomplish its goals, the Healthy Homes bill includes two major components:
- A Healthy Homes Program and Repair Fund within the Oregon Health Authority
- An Interagency Task Force on Healthy Homes
The Healthy Homes Repair Fund would provide $10 million to support low-income households and environmental justice organizations through the distribution of grants intended for home repairs or retrofits. These grants would be distributed among local housing authorities, nonprofits, local governments, community groups and/or federally recognized Indian tribes across the state.
To be considered for funding created by House Bill 2842, a home improvement project must fall into one of three categories:
- Improving energy efficiency, which may involve sealing windows, updating HVAC systems or adding insulation.
- Extending the life of the residence, which may include inspections and maintenance for critical features of a home, such as its roof, sewage system, drywall and paint.
- Improving the health and safety of occupants, which is typically something that’s not addressed by energy programs. Examples of health and safety improvements include:
While the Healthy Homes Repair Fund would supply the necessary financial resources to improve lives, the Interagency Task Force on Healthy Homes that is also a part of HB 2842 would help deploy the improvements. The task force would include up to nine members representing entities that would be eligible to participate in the Healthy Homes Program, individuals with relevant lived experience, experts in home improvement work and government members from departments focused on energy, environmental quality, housing, land development and human services.
Among other duties, the task force would be responsible for:
- Developing deployment and grant distribution strategies.
- Improving coordination between agencies to achieve better outcomes.
- Identifying potential barriers to success.
- Consulting with relevant stakeholders.
- Collecting data on resources for home-related health within the state.
Together, these financial and personnel initiatives would help ensure that low-income homeowners and renters can benefit from the many health advantages a well-insulated home can provide.
How Can SB 2842 Help You?
You may be asking, “What’s in it for me?” If you or someone you know is experiencing hazardous conditions that can be found in poorly maintained homes, you may be eligible for assistance through the Healthy Homes bill. Examples of hazardous conditions include:
- Mold: Common in attics, basements, walls and crawl spaces, mold can trigger allergy-like symptoms such as eye irritation, rashes and a sore throat. Mold inspections and/or mold testing can confirm its presence to determine whether mold remediation services are needed.
- Asbestos: A naturally occurring mineral, asbestos is commonly found in the building materials of older homes, especially those built between the 1950s and 1980s. Asbestos testing can indicate if your floors, insulation, siding or other areas within your home contain asbestos fibers, and asbestos abatement can prevent the risk of them becoming airborne.
- Plumbing/sewer issues: A lot of things can cause sewer lines to clog or back up. If you notice a slow drain or foul “rotten egg” smell, it’s important to have your sewer inspected and repaired.
- Problems with heating oil tanks: Leaking or otherwise failing heating oil tanks can contaminate the groundwater around your home and pose a fire hazard. Homes built between 1900 and 1985 should have a residential tank scan or soil sampling to locate any underground tanks and have them decommissioned or replaced.
Improve the Health & Safety of Your Home’s Occupants
Many of the things that pose a health risk to homeowners and renters can be expensive to fix, which is why the Healthy Homes bill focuses on financial support. All Oregonians have a right to a safe and healthy living environment, and House Bill 2842 is a step towards helping our communities with home improvements that could make that possible.
If you’re experiencing maintenance problems at home that may benefit from an inspection and/or repair, Alpha Environmental can help. As Portland’s leading environmental services company, we have more than 21 years of experience improving home health and safety in communities all over the Portland area. Contact us for environmental consulting or remediation services today.