Healthy Housing Leads to Community Success


The following article was written by Healthy Homes Coalition Executive Director Paul Haan after meeting with a number of community leaders earlier this year.

Community conversations are important. They bring things into focus. Even when we dedicate our lives to a cause, a community conversation can sharpen our thinking.

This is exactly the case following a conversation I had with a west Michigan leader one snowy day in January. We were talking about the role of healthy housing among the myriad of solutions to help children succeed in school, career and life.

Through that conversation, I've came humbly realize that our Fight for Healthy Homes is not an end in and of itself. It is a means to the end of healthy children, happy people, and contributing adults.

Let's use an analogy. Imagine that early childhood success is a new car that you have just purchased. Fresh off the lot, nothing is more important to you than the shiny new car that represents kids succeeding in school. But what if you fail to change the oil?  

Providing healthy housing is the oil change.

We can align resources in Kent County to make an impact for our youth and our families. As a State, we can make robust investments in early childhood programming like the Governor's proposed $130 million investment in preschool. But if we don't pay attention to maintenance - to externalities that can work cross-purposes with our efforts - we won't realize the full gain of our investment. Our early childhood car will not run as a fine tuned machine.

As we invest in children from cradle to career, we also need to make the right size investments in the factors that help or hinder their success in life, factors like the condition of their housing.  

Think about it. What would it look like if we spent our modest maintenance fund ensuring that every child who attends pre-school education also is afforded the opportunity to have their home assessed for developmental roadblocks? Let's make sure that while they are learning at school, their young brains are not being compromised by toxic lead, poor air quality or other hazards in the home.