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Healthy Homes Go Green

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Fall 2014   


        Housing’s and Neighborhoods’ Role in Shaping Children’s Future
        How Housing Mobility Affects Education Outcomes for Low-Income Children
        Protecting Children From Unhealthy Homes and Housing Instability

Healthy Homes Go Green

 A mother and son sitting in their home that has just been asthma-proofed.
Shawana’s 5-year-old son Josue suffered from severe asthma attacks, sending him to the hospital six times in one year. GHHI Baltimore completed an intensive intervention to address Josue’s asthma triggers by removing the carpet, remediating mold, repairing the downspout and other leaks, and performing integrated pest management. In the year following the intervention, Josue has not returned to the hospital for asthma. Courtesy of Green & Healthy Homes Initiative
Launched in 2008, the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) works to improve the health and overall well-being of low-income children, families, and seniors by making homes healthier and more energy efficient.1 Ruth Ann Norton, GHHI’s president and chief executive officer, says that the organization’s mission “is to make children healthier in their homes; to ensure that their homes do not undermine their ability to succeed in life.”2 At the national level, GHHI advocates for relevant public policies and provides technical assistance, training, and other supports to its 17 local sites.3

Unlike traditional fragmented and siloed approaches to remediating unhealthy, energy-inefficient homes, GHHI’s service delivery model stresses the coordination of funding and integration of home interventions to improve both efficiency and cost effectiveness. GHHI aligns a range of government, private-sector, and philanthropic funding streams and programs to provide cross-sector interventions that address energy efficiency, health, and safety. A family seeking weatherization services, for example, may also receive lead hazard mitigation or integrated pest management as needed, with GHHI coordinating the appropriate service providers and funding resources for each.4

Supported by the national office, local GHHI sites forge partnerships among government agencies, nonprofits, and private-sector entities in their cities and have the flexibility to incorporate various programs. In Buffalo, New York, for example, GHHI has used such partnerships to reclaim vacant homes, hold landlords accountable for maintaining green and healthy rental properties through housing code enforcement, and train low-income people for green jobs. The Buffalo GHHI has also partnered with the Center for Employment Opportunities to train parolees, opening up a pathway to higher-wage work for a group that traditionally has had difficulty finding employment.5

To date, GHHI has served more than 5,000 homes nationally, and the organization has documented a number of successful outcomes from its efforts, including a reduction in asthma-related hospitalizations, a decrease in school absences due to asthma symptoms, and an annual reduction in home energy costs.6 The benefits of GHHI’s interventions extend beyond the households it helps, including reduced public healthcare costs and increased labor productivity from parents, who spend less time away from work caring for sick children.7 GHHI plans to expand its successful program to a total of 60 cities within the next 3 years.

An independent evaluation finds that local GHHI programs are most effective when they have strong leadership from a site’s coordinator, centralized processing to reduce duplication of effort, the full buy-in and backing of the city’s leadership, and extensive partner participation. Among the challenges to GHHI’s work noted in the evaluation were the need for “gap” funding to make properties eligible for federal funding (for example, repairing a leaking roof so that a home qualifies for a weatherization program), differing eligibility requirements among federal programs, and the lack of dedicated GHHI funding at many sites.8

  1. “History and Mission,” Green & Healthy Homes Initiative website ( Accessed 19 September 2014; Green & Healthy Homes Initiative. 2014. “Breaking the Link Between Unhealthy Housing and Unhealthy Families.” 
  2. “Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Helps Families,” YouTube video, 0:03, posted by Green & Healthy Homes Initiative ( Accessed 19 September 2014.
  3. Green & Healthy Homes Initiative. 2014. “GHHI at-a-Glance,” Green & Healthy Homes Initiative; “Breaking the Link Between Unhealthy Housing and Unhealthy Families.”
  4. “Breaking the Link Between Unhealthy Housing and Unhealthy Families.”
  5. Cara Matteliano. 2014. “GHHI in Buffalo,” speech delivered at Congressional Briefing: Housing as a Platform for Improving Public Health, Washington, DC, 17 September.
  6. “GHHI at-a-Glance.”
  7. “Breaking the Link Between Unhealthy Housing and Unhealthy Families.”
  8. David C. Cox and F. Gary Dewalt. 2014. “Summary Report: Targeted Review of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI)®,” prepared by QuanTech for the Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 26–7.


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The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.