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Poor housing tied to kids’ health costs

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Living in substandard housing is not only unpleasant for children, it is dangerous to their health and expensive for taxpayers, a new report says.

The substandard-housing living conditions, including the presence of lead, mold and unsafe structures, creates $94.8 million in health-care costs for children, much of which is shouldered by the state’s taxpayers.

The study, “The Economic Cost of Substandard Housing Conditions among North Carolina Children,” commissioned by the N.C. Housing Coalition, measures the direct and indirect health-care costs created by poor housing.

Neurobehavioral problems, including autism and cerebral palsy, carried the highest price tag, almost $48 million, following by lead poisoning, $20 million, and asthma, $9.4 million.

Other conditions and diseases analyzed are birth defects, burns and falls, and cancer, the study says.

Direct costs in the study are defined as medical care, while indirect costs include categories like special education, missed school days and workdays missed by parents to care for sick children.

“The negative impacts of substandard housing on the health, education and welfare of North Carolina’s children costs everyone in North Carolina,” Chris Estes, the coalition’s executive director, says in a statement.

To improve the lives of children, as well as reduce the burden on taxpayers, the coalition is recommending lawmakers increase to $50 million the annual appropriation to the state’s Housing Trust Fund, which is used to build affordable housing and make needed repairs.

“The case for increasing resources for prevention must be seen in the context of what it is costing us to do nothing,” Estes says.

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