HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Director, Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University
Emma Bloomberg Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management


As a result of working inside homes, city housing inspectors witness hidden and serious threats to public health. However, systems to respond to the range of problems they encounter are lacking. In this study, we describe the impact and enabling environment for integrating a novel Social Service Referral Program within the Inspectional Services Department in Chelsea, MA. To evaluate the first eight months of the program, we used a mixed-methods approach combining quantitative data from 15 referrals and qualitative interviews with six key informants (inspectors, a case manager, and city leadership). The most common services provided to residents referred by inspectors were for fuel, food, and rent assistance; healthcare; hoarding; and homelessness prevention. Half of referred residents were not receiving other social services. Inspectors reported increased work efficiency and reduced psychological burden because of the program. Interviewees described how quality of life improved not only for referred residents but also for the surrounding neighborhood. A simple referral process that made inspectors’ jobs easier and a trusted, well-connected service provider funded to carry out the work facilitated the program’s uptake and impact. Housing inspectors’ encounters with residents present a unique opportunity to expand the public health impact of housing code enforcement.


Robb, Katharine, Ashley Marcoux, and Jorrit de Jong. "Further Inspection: Integrating Housing Code Enforcement and Social Services to Improve Community Health." International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18.22 (November 2021): 12014.