Housing Code Holds Key to Health
Poor housing conditions carry a high social and economic cost for communities, and can lead to negative health consequences, especially for children.
Trenton Health Team (THT) is working closely with the City of Trenton and Isles, Inc., an established community development and environmental organization, to improve housing conditions by enhancing code enforcement.
Most Trenton residents – nearly 63% – rent their homes. Renters are especially vulnerable to poor housing conditions because they often lack the means to correct issues such as mold, faulty wiring or lead-based paint that are known to create health hazards.
At the same time, code enforcement for housing conditions presents an ongoing challenge, exacerbated by budget cuts over the years reducing Trenton’s ranks of housing inspectors from 20 in 2010 to eight in 2020.
Trenton Health Team and our partners are working to improve code enforcement in several ways. A key step is to make sure Trenton housing codes are enforceable, reflect current best practices, and address resident needs. To assist the City of Trenton in considering updated housing rules, we are hiring a consultant who will review existing codes and offer suggestions for evidence-based changes that will better protect resident health and safety.
Currently, Trenton codes require rental housing to be inspected every five years – but this is not possible due to a lack of staffing. Trenton Health Team is working with the City of Trenton to develop a more proactive rental inspection program that allows for timely response to complaints, as well as a clear and implementable inspection schedule. One approach being considered is a tiered inspection system that rewards landlords who consistently maintain their units to a high standard by requiring less frequent inspections.
Trenton Health Team also is promoting the use of GovPilot, an existing but underutilized resource, that shares information across City departments by address, allowing quick analysis to identify problem properties and landlords and focus limited inspection capacity on the neediest homes. Code enforcement is an integral piece of the larger healthy housing puzzle. We appreciate that city officials share our concerns and look forward to working together to improve code enforcement, and in doing so, to enhance the health of Trenton residents.