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To Our Community Members and Partners,

In the coming weeks, there will be an article in The Oregonian about public housing authorities across the country and radon; Home Forward will be featured in the story. We have worked cooperatively with the reporter, and we want to provide you with some background about our efforts to test for and mitigate radon in our public housing portfolio, and the ways that we are adapting as we learn more about the best ways to approach the work.

In 2013, HUD issued a notice to housing authorities encouraging them to test and mitigate for radon. For other environmental hazards such as lead-based paint, HUD requires housing authorities to take specific actions to identify and remediate the hazard, to notify residents of its presence and to document our results. HUD also provides resources to support this work. For radon, HUD has no such requirements, and provides no specific funding to pay for the work.

Through our 85 Stories initiative, Home Forward has been working to refinance and provide critical rehab work on our public housing portfolio. This gives us the opportunity to test and mitigate radon as we rehabilitate our properties, as well as conduct other vital work that improves health and safety conditions for our residents. In addition to addressing radon risks, some of our other work includes:

  • Replacing roofs, exterior siding and windows to prevent water intrusion that can lead to rot and mold;
  • Increasing seismic resilience in our high-rise buildings to better prepare for major earthquakes;
  • Replacing HVAC systems to improve indoor air quality;
  • Upgrading electrical systems and adding safety features that reduce the risk of fires and floods;
  • Adding features in ADA apartments and community spaces that increase safety and accessibility; and
  • Adding or upgrading security systems and lighting to improve safety.
This work is needed on a massive scale due to decades of federal disinvestment in public housing. Nationally, the backlog of capital repairs needed in public housing is estimated to be over $40 billion, with thousands and thousands of public housing apartments lost because of this sustained lack of investment.

By the time we complete our 85 Stories initiative, we’ll have invested over $150 million of rehab work into making sure our community’s public housing is preserved for generations to come, and that the living environments are safer and more welcoming for the people we house.

In 2018, The Oregonian saw that Home Forward was contracting for radon testing and remediation, reflected in our public report of our contracting activities. Over the past year and a half, as we have continued our critical rehab work, including ongoing testing and mitigating radon, The Oregonian has researched and interviewed sources for their story. We’ve cooperated fully with their investigation, responded to dozens of detailed questions, provided thousands of emails and documents in reasonable timeframes, and we haven’t charged for any of it. We are proud of the work we do, and have been fully transparent about the details of our efforts.

Along the way, we’ve found that having to create our own policy around radon without critical direction and regulation from HUD, or any other regulatory body, means we’re having to learn as we go. In response to feedback from our residents about how they want us to do better at this work, especially around providing them information, we’ve made the following changes:
  • We’ve uncoupled radon testing and mitigation from our public housing rehabilitation schedule, so the work will be completed more quickly. We will test and remediate all of our public housing communities by the end of 2020, and are striving to complete it as soon as possible.
  • We’ve reduced the timeframe within which residents will be notified if radon is detected in their home and when to expect mitigation work to happen. We’ll provide specific test results and educational materials in these notifications. 
  • We have sent letters to all of our public housing residents whose properties have not yet been tested to let them know that the testing and any mitigation will happen by the end of 2020. We’ve provided resources for more information, as well as educational materials about reducing potential concentrations of radon in living spaces.
  • We’ve created a master schedule for our affordable housing portfolio, and will be sending information to tenants in those properties where we haven’t already tested so they know what to expect.
  • We’ve created a page on our website where residents and community members will find FAQs, our radon policy, tips to improve indoor air quality, links to public health resources and more.

We urge the U.S. Congress to dedicate resources to fund this work in other public housing communities, and for HUD to work with the EPA to provide a regulatory framework to guide public housing authorities in this effort. Recognizing that radon is a public health concern that affects communities across the country in all types of living and work environments, we ask for support from state and federal health agencies to provide resources and regulation to protect all citizens from this hazard.


Home Forward

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135 SW Ash Street, Portland, OR 97204
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