In the Healthier Perth Amboy’s Housing Coalition’s first official meeting, a Rutgers University researcher facilitated a conversation among representatives from local non-profits, city officials, the Fire Department, Police Department, Code Enforcement, realtors and tenants. To our partners’ relief, there was no hostility between the groups, or anyone pointing fingers. Instead, every member expressed their concerns regarding unhealthy and unsafe housing and shared ideas to create tangible change within the community.
The coalition compiled an extensive list of health concerns regarding unsafe housing, including fire hazards, illegal dwelling units and absentee landlords. After extensive deliberation, the coalition reasoned most issues regarding unsafe housing stem from the issue of overcrowding, or the presence of more people or things in a space than is comfortable, safe, or permissible. Many tenants cannot afford to pay for their housing on their own, and sublet to more people than legally allowed. Overcrowding leads to impacts in other areas of health, such as poor physical health from the air quality of the makeshift room they occupy, and poor mental health, especially in students who cannot focus on their schoolwork.
Many tenants cannot afford to pay for their housing on their own, and sublet to more people than legally allowed. Overcrowding leads to impacts in other areas of health.
After several meetings in which the coalition deliberated on this topic, we decided that more community input was needed before any recommendations could be made to City Council. Healthier Perth Amboy held community gatherings in which community members gave us feedback through honest conversations and interactive boards. Their input greatly helped with the final report of policy and practice recommendations.
Now that the report is created, Healthier Perth Amboy’s next steps include gaining additional partners that can help advocate for these policies, including community members who are most affected by unsafe and substandard housing. We are excited to continue the culture change around housing and create change using upstream, policy and education-oriented solutions.