Healthy Rowhouse Project

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Impact of Substandard Housing on Health

Substandard housing is not housing that is old or outdated. It is housing that poses a risk to the health and physical well-being of its occupants, neighbors and visitors. Substandard housing brings increased risk of disease and decreased mental health to the families and individuals who live there.

Substandard housing conditions most frequently seen in Philadelphia include holes, cracks, peeling paint, leaking roofs and broken basic systems like heating.1

Nationally, the number of substandard homes is on the rise for the first time since 1940 as owners deferred maintenance during the Great Recession that brought per house spending by owners down 28% between 2007 and 2011.2

Low-income families are most likely to live in unhealthy and substandard housing and are least able to finance the repairs needed to remedy the conditions. As a result, substandard housing contributes to disparities in health between low- and high-income Philadelphians.3


  1. American Housing Survey 2009.
  2. Kermit Baker, The Return of Substandard Housing, Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, Housing Perspectives (February 27, 2013)
  3. Pollack, C., Egerter, S., Sadegh-Nobari, T. et al, “Where We Live Matters for Our Health: The Links Between Housing and Health.” Issue Brief 2: Housing and Health. RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America, 2008.