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Salt Lake County Among Just 5 Organizations Nationally Awarded Millions for New Innovative Housing Program

Posted By Regional Development
April 09, 2021

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Salt Lake County has been a leading organization across the U.S. in healthy home programs and was awarded a $1 million grant by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this week as part of an innovative program to fill the gaps in eliminating housing-related health issues for vulnerable children and seniors.

With the funds, Salt Lake County will work with established partners like Utah Community Action Weatherization, and half a dozen others, to help 120 homes with severely ill children and senior residents that have respiratory issues, beginning this summer.

“It’s a big compliment to us to receive this grant,” Salt Lake County Housing Program Manager Randy Jepperson said, “because it was very competitive. But we’ve developed a unique approach not seen anywhere else in the country that has been very effective and cost efficient in helping residents with asthma triggers, energy efficiency and improving their air quality in a way that changes their quality of life, while also saving them and their health care provider money.”

Homes will be assessed for hazards like radon gas, lead-based paints, trip and fall hazards, as well as energy efficiency and indoor air quality. Then, they will undergo a rehab plan for intervention.

Referrals come from health care partners like University of Utah Health and Intermountain Healthcare for households with individuals struggling with uncontrolled respiratory conditions and housing repair needs —among communities with the highest incidence of visits to hospitals for asthma care.

This pilot program is the first time there has been a grant to help households mitigate asthma triggers. Asthma costs have been on the rise in Utah; since 2014, asthma-related emergency department charges have increased by about 130%. South Salt Lake, a target area of the program, is among the highest rates of asthma emergency department visits in the state, according to the Utah Department of Health.

“Salt Lake County has one of the best healthy homes programs in the country, and we didn’t shut down during the pandemic,” Housing and Community Development Director Michael Gallegos said. “We continued to work, and that helped us keep momentum and be able to apply for and obtain this grant to further expand our work to make homes safe and healthy for our most vulnerable Salt Lake County residents.”

Salt Lake County created the Green & Healthy Homes coalition with 13 partners nearly eight years ago to improve the safety of homes and subsequently improve the health of local families. Since then, it’s made a difference for at least 200 families.