Developing Weatherization and Lead Abatement Indicators to Track Neighborhood Sustainability
Over the past 15 years, community-based indicator projects have chosen indicators to monitor neighborhood change and stability while balancing the practical decision on availability and robustness of data. Increasingly, many indicators have implications for cross-cutting facets which can be attributed to a more coordinated approach to community development in general. For example, in 1995, the Healthy Homes Initiative was launched during the Clinton Administration to eliminate lead-based paint hazards in privately-owned and low-income housing. The key intervention involves coordination between public health and housing departments to prevent housing-related health and safety hazards. Tracking the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels (EBLL) in a community became a commonly tracked indicator in the 2000s, showing dramatic reductions that all stakeholders could understand. In 2009, the Obama administration launched the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which called for even greater coordination of the Healthy Homes Initiative with environmental programs. With American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, the Healthy Homes approach began integrating weatherization and other energy-savings programs with health and safety interventions so that the programs do not inadvertently work at cross purposes (e.g. sealing windows in a home with asthmatic children without addressing indoor air quality). Just as lead abated homes were tracking EBLL in children (a public health outcome), weatherized homes are being tracked for energy utilization (an energy consumption outcome). The increase in funding for weatherization was significant; in some states, including Maryland, more homes were weatherized from 2009-2011 using ARRA funds than during the entire previous decade. From a neighborhood indicators perspective, the coordination of these two programs (lead abatement and weatherization) could be significant with respect to not only stabilizing housing for low-income households but also modernizing the housing stock in transitional markets. The purpose of this paper is to show preliminary analysis of the relationship between newly constructed weatherization and lead abatement neighborhood indicators and other reported indicators relevant to community development such as sales transactions, rates of foreclosure, vacancy and other code violations.