Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Require Carbon Monoxide Detectors in Federally Assisted Housing

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the “Safe Housing for Families Act” (S. 755) on March 12. The legislation would require that HUD provide carbon monoxide detectors in HUD-assisted housing units. Representatives Chuy Garcia (D-IL) and Joe Cunningham (D-SC) introduced companion legislation (H.R. 1690) in the House on the same day.

The effects of carbon monoxide poisoning occur almost immediately and can result in death in a matter of minutes. In addition, exposure to carbon monoxide can cause permanent brain damage, life-threatening cardiac complications, and fetal death or miscarriage. Since 2003, at least eleven federally assisted tenants have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

For decades, HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH) has warned about the dangers of carbon monoxide as a poisonous gas that can be fatal at high levels of exposure. But HUD has yet to require the use of carbon monoxide monitors in all of its housing programs. Federally assisted housing residents are therefore at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and subsequent death due to inspection practices that are not in line with prevailing science and the best practices described by OLHCHH and other federal agencies.

Carbon monoxide detectors are already required in HUD’s voucher-based programs. And as recently as October 27, 2017, HUD issued regulations implementing the “Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016” (HOTMA) provision that requires HUD to classify inoperable or missing carbon monoxide detectors as “life-threatening” violations of the Housing Quality Standards (HQS) for the Housing Choice Voucher and Project-Based Voucher programs. HUD should now extend these protections to all federally assisted homes in order to fulfill the statutory duty to provide safe and decent housing.

More about lead hazard control and healthy homes is on page 5-6 of NLIHC’s 2018 Advocates’ Guide.

Read the bill’s text at: