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Housing violations and high asthma rates go hand-in-hand, study finds

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Asthma cases mirror housing violations, particularly in low-income neighborhoods

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Over the weekend and after a protracted effort, the city put into effect the Asthma-Free Housing Act, which aims to protect tenants from asthma triggers like mold, cockroaches, and other pests. The act requires landlords of buildings with three of more apartments to conduct yearly inspections of each apartment and common area in search of underlying conditions that may attract mold or pests and requires them to remediate any conditions they discover within 24 hours.

The act is all well and good, but as with many pieces of housing-focused legislation, there’s no guarantee that landlords will readily comply. New York City housing data-crunching website Localize.city has rolled out a new analysis to help renters make educated decisions when moving with regards to the Asthma-Free Housing Act.

The mobile-first website did an analysis of asthma rates and rates for mold and pest violations throughout the city, as well as collated data about asthma-triggering violations for every applicable building in the city. When renters use Localize.city, any mold and pest violations associated with the searched property will be put on display.

“A fresh coat of paint often covers up serious maintenance problems which New Yorkers only uncover after moving in,” said Localize.city President Steve Kalifowitz. “Having done one of the most extensive studies on housing violations, we’re enabling all New Yorkers to know if the building and apartment they’re considering moving into have been well-maintained.”

In its analysis of housing data from January 2013 through December 2018 (not including public housing) and asthma rates for adults aged 18 and older from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 2015 to 2016, the website found which neighborhoods have the most documented cases of triggers that contribute to asthma.

It found that the correlation between neighborhoods with high rates of asthma and high rates of mold and pest violations is strong, with low-income neighborhoods, including ones in the Bronx and Central Brooklyn, disproportionately affected by high rates of asthma. Seven of the top ten neighborhoods for asthma and nine of the top ten neighborhoods for pest violations are in the Bronx. Brownsville in Brooklyn has the city’s highest rate of asthma among adults, with 14.2 cases per 100 residents 18 or older, followed by the Bronx’s Morrisania at a rate of 13.5 cases per 100 residents 18 or older.

Localize.city also found that the gap between neighborhoods with the highest and lowest asthma rates was quite large: Brownsville and Morrisania’s asthma rates are nearly twice as high as the neighborhoods with the lowest asthma rates, Manhattan’s Battery Park City and Garment District, Queens’ Little Neck/Douglaston and Oakland Gardens, and Brooklyn’s Dumbo.