Memphis is not making the grade when it comes to healthy housing.
A recent National Center for Healthy Housing study shows the Bluff City has the least healthy housing of 46 metropolitan areas in the United States. More than 52 percent of homes in the metro area have at least one health or safety hazard. That includes everything from water leaks, heating system breakdowns, holes in the walls and rats.
Numbers from the Census Bureau's 2011 survey show an overall increase in homes plagued with hazards; up from 35 percent in 2009 to 40 percent in 2011.
San Jose, California was at the top for healthiest housing. Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Birmingham joined Memphis in the bottom.
"I'm not shocked. Am I disappointed? Yes, I am," said Councilman Harold Collins, who added the report only reveals what most people in Memphis already knew.
"We knew that our population was at or below the poverty level 20-25 years ago and we haven't seen much of a movement of the needle since," he said.
The Healthy Housing Study reveals 52 percent of houses in the Memphis-metro area have at least one or more health and safety hazard.
"The challenges outlined in this report really are largely invisible to us," said Onzie Horne, Director of Neighborhood Improvement for the city of Memphis.
Code enforcement officers are limited to spotting exterior hazards like broken windows and cannot uncover problems lurking behind closed doors, Horne added.
"This seems to be primary to rental housing," Horne said. "So, we really have an issue there with landlords failing to maintain their properties."
Horne says too many times renters don't understand their rights, contributing to the growing problem of "unhealthy" living conditions.
"You don't have to tolerate unlivable, unsanitary, unsafe living conditions," Horne said. "You don't have to move; what you have to do is report it."
Horne says code enforcement officers will be saturating areas of Memphis where safety and health hazards have been a problem.
In the meantime, Councilman Collins says more jobs for people living in the poverty-stricken areas can help.
"Our local government needs to make sure the resources we provide for contracts and jobs need to be spread around to the community that suffers the most from this report,' he said.