Healthy Housing in Rural Communities
We have partnered with the National Center for Healthy Housing to improve healthy housing and address environmental health hazards that impact the home, including issues that impact the indoor environment, the surrounding outdoor spaces, and services like drinking water and sanitation. Our desire is to identify and create resources and connect with stakeholders who are directly engaged in healthy housing work.
The intent is to gather information about the current healthy housing needs and challenges in rural and tribal communities and amplify existing strengths and unique strategies in place. This ongoing work is intended to identify where environmental health and healthy housing professionals can assist and bridge gaps through creating resources, facilitating connections, or amplifying and disseminating information.
The resources developed and shared here are intended for any community that identifies itself as rural regardless of any formal definition.
- More than 1.4 million homes in rural America are severely or moderately inadequate.
- Approximately 11.5 million rural homes have deficiencies including health and safety hazards such as pests, peeling paint (which may contain lead hazards), holes in the floor, and mold.
- Rural BIPOC residents have more than twice the poverty rate of rural whites at 28%, and over half of rural residents in poverty live in the South.
Rural Healthy Housing Needs
Environmental health hazards and healthy housing issues like lead, mold, poor indoor air quality, carbon monoxide, and structural issues like leaking roofs are common issues among all communities, but present a particular set of challenges to rural communities and their residents.
These resources demonstrate some of the most prominent healthy housing issues in rural communities and can also be used to inform future opportunities for cross-sector collaboration and inform the role and work of healthy housing and environmental health professionals in the future.
Improving Housing Conditions in Rural Communities: Sharing Local Best Practices
Learn about the challenges and opportunities in rural and frontier communities. The panel discussion consists of perspectives from both local and national professionals with healthy housing and environmental health backgrounds working in rural communities. The discussion includes lessons learned, identified challenges, and successes in delivering focused services and programs. Watch the video on YouTube.
Rural Healthy Housing and Environmental Health Factsheet
This factsheet from NCHH and NEHA provides a snapshot of key healthy housing and environmental health issues in rural communities and is intended as an introduction to the topic. View the factsheet.
Rural Communities and Healthy Housing Primer
Made to support the above factsheet, this primer provides some further background information on how healthy housing issues manifest in rural communities, why these issues matter, and how they intersect with issues of health equity. View the primer.
Identifying Needs of Rural Healthy Housing Organizations Questionnaire
NCHH and NEHA designed and disseminated this questionnaire in late 2022 and early 2023 to understand and identify healthy housing needs and opportunities in rural areas. This report summarizes the results of responses and can be used by other organizations, state or local agencies to inform future environmental health and healthy housing work. View the summary report.
State Healthy Housing Fact Sheets
NCHH has created new fact sheets for each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, the territories of American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each sheet contains embedded hyperlinks to the reference source materials. View the fact sheets.
Establishing and Running a Local Home Repair Program: A Technical Assistance Tool
This technical assistance brief to support local and state governments, agencies, programs, and advocates in understanding how local home repair programs can address healthy housing issues and the options for building such a program to serve community needs. You’ll find the opportunities and real-world examples presented below useful as you create or strengthen local programs in your area. This concrete, direct glimpse at how other localities have structured programs, combined with a discussion of points to consider as you plan, can guide your first steps as you determine the approach most suitable for your community. View the PDF.
Eligibility requirements, restricted funding, and eligible activities are just some of the barriers communities face when considering applying for funding to provide services or strengthen healthy housing programs in rural areas. We have developed and gathered some resources below to guide organizations looking for future funding opportunities that would apply to their communities.
Federal Funding for Rural Healthy Housing
This factsheet provides an overview of federal programs from USDA, EPA, and HUD that provide funding to rural communities, organizations, and individuals. The factsheet includes information on each program’s purpose, funding amount, and impact. View the factsheet.
Federal Funding for Rural Healthy Housing: Applicant Guide
This guide expands on the above factsheet by providing detailed information on how to apply, when funding is typically available, and eligibility requirements and activities for each program. View the applicant guide.
Financial Help for Home Repairs
NCHH’s website provides a suite of resources to help connect homeowners to people, resources, and programs near them that provide financial help to investigate and fix lead and other health and safety problems in their homes. These resources and programs are generally designed for homeowners because they are the people responsible for fixing hazards in the homes they own. If you are a renter, we recommend you still investigate these links to see the types of local programs your landlord can access to fix health hazards in the home, including those related to lead. Explore funding options.
Effects of a Changing Climate on Rural Communities
As our climate changes, extreme weather events are increasing in both frequency and intensity and pose a threat to public health and infrastructure, including homes. Climate change also disproportionately affects low-income communities and communities of color due to historic policies like redlining that forced these populations to live in worse-quality housing and neighborhoods that experience extreme weather events more severely.
The effects of climate change particularly exacerbate housing quality and safety issues in rural areas where there may be fewer available resources to mitigate damage, perform risk assessments and support climate resilience and adaptation efforts and where geographic isolation may create challenges in responding to disasters.
Emergency Preparedness and Response Resource Libraries
We have developed a suite of resource libraries related to healthy housing considerations in the events of extreme cold, extreme heat, floods, hurricanes and high wind events, pandemics, and wildfires. View resource libraries.
How Climate Change Offers Opportunities to Revitalize and Reconnect with Rural Communities
A guest post published on the Colorado State University’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability’s website describes rural vulnerability to climate change and how climate change offers opportunities to revitalize and reconnect with rural communities. Read the post.
Rural Emergency Preparedness and Response Toolkit
Rural Health Information Hub’s toolkit provides several models and resources to support organizations implementing emergency planning, response, and recovery efforts in rural communities including a module on natural disasters, funding and support, and case studies. Access the toolkit.