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Tulsa Health Department Launches New Pilot Housing Program

TULSA, OK – [April 10, 2019] – The Tulsa Health Department is bridging the gap between where residents choose living where they can afford and what they know to be healthy by developing a new housing pilot program.

During a Facebook Live today, THD’s environmental health services program announced Safe & Healthy Homes, an initiative which will incentivize property owners to have their rental properties inspected on a volunteer basis. This voluntary program is an effort to improve safe housing options in Tulsa County. Landlords are currently not required to have their residential rental properties inspected for public health nuisances, and THD will ask them to do so voluntarily.

“Poor housing conditions can create stress that leads to poor health outcomes,” said Bernard Dindy, EHS manager.  “Unsafe conditions contribute to health problems including injuries, poor childhood development and diseases. According to the EPA, Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors with two-thirds of that in their own homes. We want to make sure that tenants are living in a safe environment without any hazardous conditions in the home to help address the social determinants of health.”

Safe & Healthy Homes, which kicks off today, is a program where a property owner can fill out an online registration form or can do so in person. A member of THD’s EHS program will set up a time to come out to do the courtesy check and offer the assurance of a livable space or suggestions on how to get there.

Once property owners and managers are enrolled in this voluntary incentive program, owners can register their properties and request an initial meeting. THD will conduct a courtesy inspection for the minimum acceptable level of public health and safety according to the Title 55 Property Maintenance Code. The code is intended to provide requirements addressing the public health, safety and welfare as they relate to the use and maintenance of existing structures. There is no cost for the voluntary inspection program, and the following incentives are included:
1. Courtesy Safe Housing inspection once a year or between tenants
2. Certificate of participation and decal for door or window
3. Listed as a community partner on program website
4. Courtesy phone conference to discuss complaints/ repairs before an order is mailed
5. Free lead testing for water and paint sample (one time)
6. Rodent survey of property, bait station if needed 
7. Registry with mosquito program, trap site and survey during season
8. Registry with City of Tulsa Working in Neighborhoods (WIN) Nuisance Abatement program   
9. Registry with City of Tulsa Crime Prevention program

The initial proposal calls for only a single walk-through by THD EHS staff member. These checks are based on an eight-point healthy home inspection for hazards such as roof leaks, carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, pests and mold. A health department inspector will perform these inspections and issue certificates last for one year after meeting requirements.

“We want to help educate tenants and landlords with reasonable expectations when renting in hopes that we can reduce eviction rates and rental turnover,” said Dindy. “Working together, both property owner and tenant, we can create this culture of healthier neighborhoods in Tulsa County.”

Health officials said it would be attractive to rental property owners looking to market units as healthy and looking to ensure their homes are safe for rentals. This in turn should help reduce turnover rates and bring trust and security to the landlord-tenant relationship.

Dindy said of the voluntary program, “It should at least signal to people that awareness is being made for better housing efforts. Every Tulsa resident deserves a healthy home, regardless of income level, geography and lack of affordable and safe housing options.”

For more information, call 918.595.4200 or visit www.tulsa-health.org/housing.

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