Healthy Rowhouse Project

A Center for Architecture Initiative
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Our Goal

Improve the health of Philadelphians and preserve critically needed affordable housing by using innovative strategies to improve housing conditions in thousands of rowhouses each year.

The Housing Challenge

Philadelphia’s stock of rowhouses is an extraordinary asset that allows the city to offer homeownership to more low-income homeowners than virtually any city in the country. Yet these rowhouses are deteriorating faster than their owners can repair them.

  • 70% of all housing units in the city are rowhouses.
  • 75% of those houses are over 50 years old.
  • 78% of Philadelphia seniors over age of 60 own their own homes.
  • 40% of all renters live in single-family homes.
  • 38% of owner occupied homes in 2012 were owned by households earning less than $35,000.

THE HEALTH CHALLENGE

Substandard housing conditions due to deferred maintenance are literally making the people who live in these rowhouses sick. Substandard conditions like mold, mildew, lead paint, and pests create and perpetuate health conditions like asthma and lead poisoning in our most vulnerable populations.

  • 40% of asthma episodes are due to asthma triggers in the home, representing $5 billion lost annually in preventable medical costs.

THE HOUSING AND HEALTH SOLUTION

Housing policy is health care policy. By repairing homes, dozens of studies have shown that we can dramatically improve the health of the families and individuals living there. At the same time, we can preserve affordable housing that we could never afford to build today.

  • Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s 2013-2014 pilot with St. Christopher’s Hospital, which removed asthma triggers from homes at an average cost of $3,500 apiece, found that hospitalizations dropped 70% within six months and school absences were cut in half.