Healthy Homes Grant Program Coming

By David Krogh

The Healthy Homes Grant Program was created by the 2021 Oregon State Legislature, separate from but in support of, the Federal HUD Agency’s Healthy Homes program. It is intended to help promote “healthy homes” for low income households (which according to OHA is “a household having an income equal to or below 80 percent of the earned median family income”) and communities impacted by environmental justice factors (which means “a circumstance or condition that impacts a community’s ability to achieve a balance of health, economic or environmental benefits and burdens or that impacts at community’s ability to participate in public processes”). This program is not federally supported and is instead funded by $15 million in state money. 

The program was established by Oregon HB 2842 for the purpose of having the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) provide housing related grants to a wide variety of organizations. These groups will in turn provide financial assistance to eligible homeowners and landlords for the repair and rehab of residences to address environmental hazards, ensure accessible homes for disabled residents and make general repairs needed to maintain a safe and healthy home. 

HB 2842 states a “residence means a dwelling that is intended for occupation by a single family and is occupied by one or more individuals who are members of a low-income household as the individuals’ principal residence, including a site-built home, manufactured home, residential trailer, mobile home, condominium unit or unit within multifamily housing.” In short, all home types could potentially be assisted by this program.   

Organizations who could receive the grant money include local governments, housing authorities, nonprofit organizations, federally recognized tribes in Oregon, electric and natural gas utilities and other related groups. Individual residences would not be able to receive the grants except as passed through by these intermediary (third party) organizations.

As part of the qualification process, organizations would need to show that they serve communities which include low-income concentrations, disadvantaged households, areas of high unemployment, areas with low home ownership, high rent burden and/or linguistic isolation. 

Money distributed via this program can be used for such activities including energy efficiency, usable life maintenance (of the residence), radon abatement, mold and mildew abatement, lead abatement, seismic improvements, interior air quality improvements, accessibility measures, electrical improvements and safety upgrades.

Timing and process are currently being discussed by an OHA task force (the Interagency Task Force on Healthy Homes) with the intent that program components be identified this fall. This task force is made up of 15 members with representatives from six state departments and nine other members appointed by the governor, representing entities likely to participate in the program, individuals with expertise in the field of healthy homes and/or those individuals with experience in home improvement work. Members of the task force for groups situated in the Portland area include Charity Fain of the Community Energy Project, Isaiah Kamrar of the African American Alliance for Homeownership and Marie Gerdtz from Community Pathways. 

Jonathan Modie, Communications Officer with OHA, said that several groups have already expressed interest in the program even at this early stage. He suggested interested persons should monitor the Interagency Task Force on Healthy Homes website, bit.ly/HealthyHomesTaskForce, for status updates.

Regarding next steps, the OHA Rules Advisory Committee will meet to develop Oregon Administrative Rules for the program during the Winter-Spring of 2023. After that is completed, OHA expects the Healthy Homes Grant Program will be able to distribute funding to eligible organizations in late Summer-Fall 2023.

Meetings of the Interagency Task Force on Healthy Homes are held monthly and allow a 10-minute period for public testimony at the end of each agenda. The meetings are held via Zoom and the meeting schedule, agendas and meeting notes are available online at the Interagency Task Force Meetings webpage. In November, there will be three Task Force meetings: Tuesday, November 1, 1-3 pm; Thursday, November 17, 10 am-noon; and Tuesday, November 29, 1-3 pm. 

For additional information on the Healthy Homes Grant Program contact Jordana Leeb, Healthy Homes Program Coordinator at jordana.a.leeb@state.or.us.  

Healthy Homes Grant Program Coming

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