3/07/2008 — 

MR. REED: Mr. President, I introduce, along with Senator Hagel, the Healthy Housing Council Act of 2008. This legislation would establish an independent interagency Council on Healthy Housing in the executive branch. The bill would improve the coordination of existing but fragmented programs, so that families can access Government programs and services in a more efficient and effective manner.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than 6 million households live in housing with moderate or severe heating, plumbing, or electric hazards. This count of moderate or severe physical problems does not even include significant lead-based paint hazards, which persist in 24 million, or approximately four times as many, households.

Low-income and minority individuals and families are disproportionately affected by housing-related health hazards. We know that residents of poorly designed, constructed, or maintained housing are at greater risk for serious illnesses and injuries, including cancer , carbon monoxide poisoning, burns, falls, rodent bites, childhood lead poisoning, and asthma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, non-Hispanic Blacks and Mexican-Americans are three times as likely to have elevated blood-lead levels, compared to non-Hispanic whites. About 1.2 million housing units with significant lead-based paint hazards house low-income families with children under 6 years of age.

If the disease and injury toll taken on our Nation's individuals and families, particularly our children, is not enough to demonstrate the need for coordinated Federal Government action on housing-related health hazards, consider some of the annual costs.

According to research at the Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center, annual costs for environmentally attributable childhood diseases in the U.S. total an estimated $54.9 billion. That number is approximately 3 percent of total health care costs.

The good news is that low-cost preventative measures can have dramatic effects. For example, properly installing and maintaining a smoke alarm can cut the risk of fire death in half. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that providing healthy housing to American families will help prevent 20 million asthma cases, 240,000 incidents of elevated blood-lead levels in young children, 14,000 burn injuries, and 21,000 radon-associated lung cancer deaths.

While there are many programs in place to address housing-related health hazards, these programs are fragmented and spread across many agencies, making it difficult for at-risk families to access assistance or to receive the comprehensive information they need. It is time for better coordination.

This bill authorizes $750,000 for each of fiscal years 2009 to 2013 for an independent Council on Healthy Housing, which would bring Federal, State, and local government representatives, as well as industry and nonprofit representatives, to the table at least once a year.

The council would review, monitor, and evaluate existing housing, health, energy, and environmental programs. The council would then make recommendations to reduce duplication, ensure collaboration, identify best practices, and develop a comprehensive healthy housing research agenda.

In order to ensure that members of the public are informed of and benefit from the council's activities, the council would hold biannual stakeholder meetings, keep an updated Web site, and work towards unified healthy housing data collection and maintenance.

While there is a growing consensus on ways to help communities make housing healthier, there is also a lack of coordinated programs and information, which has made it difficult for the public to access research and data. By creating this council, we can provide a sorely needed forum for otherwise disparate health and housing experts, whether in the Government, private, or nonprofit sector, to share their experiences, successes, and agendas for the future.

The Healthy Housing Council Act will help us start working towards a time when an affordable, decent, and healthy home will be not just the American dream, but the American promise. I hope my colleagues will join me and Senator Hagel in supporting this bipartisan bill and other healthy housing efforts.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.