Affordable housing must be healthy housing.

Today’s affordable housing is not healthy housing—and this needs to change.

Receive updates about healthier affordable housing, healthy materials, and more.

The construction of affordable housing has been chronically underfunded and regulated by racist housing policies. After years of widespread use, low-cost, substandard, and toxic building materials are now directly linked to more serious health risks for low income families.

Harmful chemicals coat our food. Poisonous lead contaminates our water. Carcinogenic flame retardant-filled insulation fills our walls. Indoor air pollution has resulted in an alarming rise in childhood asthma. In the face of this health crisis, even minor renovations can drastically improve the health of communities.

Armed with better knowledge about the impacts of material choices, designers and architects can strive to create healthy affordable housing today—and make a profound difference in many peoples’ health and lives. Healthier affordable housing is primarily in the hands of designers, developers, and builders, but working with future residents we can make well-considered choices to foster healthier lives.

How We Make Affordable Housing Healthier

Innovate — Use healthier building materials to reduce exposure to toxics and improve human health (find spec guidance here)

Educate — Foster knowledge and awareness of material alternatives to empower planners, builders, and residents

Market — Elevate successful products with a proven track record to be affordable and expand availability

Celebrate — Champion manufacturers, builders, and contractors who work to promote transparency and drive innovation

Our Resources for Affordable Housing Providers

We provide curated collections of vetted, affordable materials, Detailed Specification Guidelines for quicker and better product selection, and targeted education courses for professionals, students, and community members

Building Healthy Homes: A mission for millions
This initiative showcases projects around the nation in an effort to support a more transparent and collaborative design-culture. We are continuously mapping every affordable housing development and are looking for others to join the movement.
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Materials Collection: Healthy Affordable Building Products
These healthier products are vetted by teams working in affordable and public housing, meet stringent performance and maintenance requirements, and have been successfully installed in affordable, supportive, accessible, and public housing units nationwide. Installing such products can significantly reduce toxicity and improve environmental quality in homes.
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About Healthy Materials Lab

We are Healthy Materials Lab, a design research lab at Parsons School of Design. We are dedicated to placing people’s health at the center of all design decisions.

We are committed to raising awareness about toxic chemicals in building products and to creating resources for all designers and architects, to change design practice and make healthier places for all people to live.

In the broadest sense, our goals are to create healthier spaces and support healthier lives. To achieve this, we strive to:

1 Improve common building materials to reduce exposure to toxics and improve health
2 Foster knowledge and awareness of today’s healthier material alternatives—make them more affordable, marketable, accessible, and popular
3 Empower communities living in poverty to remove toxics in their built environments
4 Educate professionals, teachers and students about the issue of material health and enable them to change current practices
5 Work with manufacturers to promote transparency and drive innovation