From the Oregon Health Authority and Department of Human Services' news bulletin:
In 2017, Home Forward began testing its Portland public housing buildings for radon to prepare for a major rehabilitation project. The agency discovered some buildings had elevated levels of radon, but guidance on addressing it was limited.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had issued recommendations for radon testing in 2013, but there was no requirement specific to testing public housing properties.
So, Home Forward took a proactive approach to addressing elevated radon levels, creating a policy to test, mitigate where necessary, and re-test all the properties it owns – more than 100 buildings. That spawned the Home Forward Radon Procedures Manual.
“The only way of knowing if a property or a unit has high levels of radon is by testing,” said Carolina Gomez,
Home Forward’s director of Integrated Facilities Services and Safety who helped draft both the policy and the procedures manual. “We don't know where we're going to find it until we test, so we are in the process of testing all our properties.”
Home Forward is now on track to completing testing and abatement at all its properties – home to some 14,000 households – by the end of 2023.
OHA took notice of Home Forward’s success in developing its radon policy and procedures manual. In late 2022, OHA published its own Radon Testing for Multifamily Buildings guide – available on OHA’s Radon Resources page – to help multifamily building owners and managers in the state accurately test their buildings for elevated radon.
“What inspired us was the Oregonian’s “Cancer Cloud” article, and then learning about Home Forward’s commitment to test their buildings for radon,” said Jara Popinga, OHA’s Radon Awareness Program coordinator. “It was clear that local housing authorities could use more support and encouragement for radon testing.”
OHA had recently finished the protocols and procedures document for testing radon levels in schools – as part of ORS 332.341 and 332.345 – and a risk communication tool kit. It was an opportunity for the agency to reconstruct those resources to make something geared toward property owners and tenants. Because Home Forward has experience with radon testing in multifamily buildings and communicating with tenants, “we thought they would be a great partner to work with to build these resources. Lucky for us, they agreed to provide support and input on our materials,” Popinga said.
Read OHA's news bulletin "Housing authority’s radon procedures manual inspires state protocol," featuring Home Forward.