Healthy Rowhouse Project

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Health, Housing, Winter, and COVID-19

Photograph by Dylan Brown, 2019

As the months go by and winter sets in along with a new wave of guidelines and restrictions being put into place as COVID-19 cases rise across the country, people are going to be spending more and more time inside their homes. On Friday November 20th, a new set of “Safer at Home” restrictions are going to be put into action in Philadelphia. The Safer at Home restrictions and guidelines are intended to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health and lives of Philadelphians. Some of the restrictions include necessitating all high schools and colleges to move to online instruction only, the closing of libraries and many other businesses, and the halting of recreational activities and sports for youth, community groups, and schools. While these restrictions are necessary and potentially lifesaving, they will limit access to important resources that people rely on. As more and more people return to their homes for work and school, access to things such as food, the internet, and suitable living and working environments will become even more important.

Studies show that poor housing quality can directly relate to school performance and can lead to other health issues caused by things like mildew, mold, and lead paint. The Healthy Rowhouse Project found that more than a quarter of Philadelphia seniors live in a home with damage to the roof, the plumbing system, or the heating system. Seniors in homes with health-related repair needs are far more likely than others to have chronic conditions, visit the emergency room, or experience falls. Moreover, some 39 percent of asthma diagnoses in children can be attributed to risk factors in the home. According to the American Housing Survey, more than 235,000 homes in Philadelphia have leaks, with the most common leaks coming from the roof. Meanwhile, 90,000 homes have cracks in the floors or walls, 77,000 have inadequate heating, and 45,000 have broken windows. As it gets colder this winter, issues with heating systems within the home will become even more problematic and apparent as more time is spent inside.

Here at the Healthy Rowhouse Project we understand that there is a strong connection between health and housing, something that has only become more relevant in the midst of a pandemic that has required people to stay home. Because of this, we have worked with Clarifi and the City of Philadelphia to create the Restore, Repair, Renew program, which was recently featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer, in order to provide Philadelphians access to affordable home repair loans. These accessible loans can be used to fund a range of home repairs that focus on health, safety, weatherization, accessibility, and more, and provide low-to-moderate income Philadelphians the opportunity to protect their most important assets.