The City of Allentown is being awarded $5.7 million from the federal government to reduce lead paint hazards in city homes.
Five million dollars comes from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Lead Hazard Reduction Grant Program along with $700,000 in Healthy Homes supplemental funds.
The city will address lead hazards in 310 housing units providing safer homes for low and very low-income families with children.
“This grant will significantly increase the city’s ability to boost the health and safety of our housing stock,” said Mayor Ray O’Connell. “Lead is a problem that is causing serious harm to our young children. “By expanding this program to reaching another 310 homes we are improving the health of our residents and creating safer homes in the city. I am very grateful to our federal government partners for the funding.”
“I am pleased that this much-needed funding will be going to the City of Allentown for lead reduction and safety improvements in low-income housing,” said U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). “This support will help localities create a safer environment for families and children in Pennsylvania.”
Lehigh Valley Congresswoman Susan Wild said, “I am so thrilled to see this critical funding go to making our community’s housing safer. All of our children, regardless of their parents’ income level, deserve the basic right to live in a safe, lead-free environment.”
At least 50% of selected rental units are occupied or available to families with incomes at or below 50% of the area median income level, and the remaining units occupied or made available to families with incomes at or below 80% of the area median income level.
For owner-occupied housing, all units assisted will be occupied by families with income at or below 80% of the area median income level. It is anticipated that at least 340 will be identified as potentially eligible units. An average of 103 units will be annually enrolled and have lead hazard control work performed, for a period total of 310 units.
The city has budgeted $500,000 in CDBG funding as a match to the requested funds, helping to ensure the attainment of its program goals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 28.9% of children under 72 months of age that were tested in Lehigh County during 2017 had blood lead levels > 5µg/dl, the highest such incidence among Pennsylvania’s counties.
Because of the city’s aging housing stock, and the prevalence of children with elevated blood lead (EBL) above Centers for Disease Control reference values, it is anticipated that at least 25% or more of units referred for enrollment will have an EBL child in residence. Priority will be given to properties where a child has received a confirmed EBL. Beginning with the units occupied by children with an EBL, units will be qualified for eligibility in accordance with grant specifications.
The overall program objective is to eliminate the incidence of childhood lead poisoning by addressing lead hazards in housing units where children under age 6 reside. The city’s proposed program addresses local conditions and seeks to maximize the number of children protected from lead hazards through education and outreach to the community, identification of at-risk youth, and treating poisoned children. It also recognizes the housing units deemed to have lead hazards and remediates them using highly trained, qualified contractors in a cost-effective manner.
In addition to providing safer living conditions for children and families in the city, the program will make an impact in the overall quality of housing conditions in Allentown neighborhoods. It is in line with the city’s Vision 2030 Plan which includes a principal of improving the quality of Allentown housing with, “Healthy, quality housing that is free from physical hazards and promotes quality of life and community well-being.”
The program will be operated by the Department of Community and Economic Development’s, Community Housing Department.
The Community Housing Department works in partnership with the Bureau of Health and the Bureau of Building Standards and Safety (BBSS) to deliver program services.
The Allentown Health Bureau will perform lead-based paint inspections and risk assessments on properties occupied by children with elevated lead blood levels and reports these findings to Community Housing.
The BBSS conducts all rental inspections, identifies code violations, and reports suspected lead-paint hazards found during the course of their inspections to Community Housing and/or the Bureau of Health.
The Community Housing Department has three licensed Risk Assessors and a Project Designer who review the reports and prepare work specifications addressing all identified hazards. Program staff are trained and certified in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards of lead-based paint inspections using XRF Lead Paint Analyzers and the acquisition of dust wipe samples that are sent to a certified lab for examination.
Today’s funding is part of nearly $165 million awarded to 44 state and local government agencies in 23 states. Allentown is one of five $5.7 million recipients.
“Today, we are renewing our commitment to improving the lives of families, and especially, their children by creating safer and healthier homes,” said HUD Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson. “At HUD, one of our main priorities is to protect families from lead-based paint and other health hazards, and these grants will help states and local communities do precisely that.”
The city began implementing a Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control program in 2016, thanks to a nearly $1.4 million grant from HUD. The program, which ended in October of 2019, allowed the city to hire an experienced Project Director who led the program in the remediation of lead in 53 properties. The city has a full project staff, relationships with qualified contractors, and a well-developed program referral and intake system.