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CUOMO ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT TO PROTECT RHODE ISLANDERS FROM LEAD PAINT HAZARDS IN HUD-SUBSIDIZED SECTION 8 HOUSING
WASHINGTON -- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo today announced a new agreement in principle to better protect people living in HUD-subsidized housing in Rhode Island from lead-based paint hazards.
The agreement, called a memorandum of understanding, is expected to be finalized in several weeks between HUD, the Rhode Island Health Department and housing authorities around the state.
Under the agreement, HUD will stop paying Section 8 rental subsidies to landlords in Rhode Island for rental houses and apartment units where lead hazards have been found -- until action is taken to end the hazardous conditions.
The agreement will also enable HUD to offer special training to housing inspectors in Rhode Island to prepare the inspectors to spot more lead hazards before children move into Section 8 units.
"HUD is in the business of helping families in need to find safe and decent affordable housing," Cuomo said. "We are not in the business of putting families in homes that will endanger their health."
Under the agreement, landlords of rental units where children with elevated blood lead levels lived will have to obtain a lead-safe certificate from the Rhode Island Health Department. The landlords could get the certificates only after doing remediation work to eliminate lead hazards uncovered by a detailed inspection called a lead-based paint risk assessment.
To enable landlords to correct lead-based paint hazards, HUD has awarded grants totalling $13 million to control lead-based paint hazards in privately-owned, low-income Rhode Island housing, including housing in the Section 8 program.
Because children age six and younger are most susceptible to lead poisoning, Rhode Island tests them regularly for blood lead levels. Tests last year found an unusually high proportion of Rhode Island youngsters tested -- about 17 percent statewide and about 30 percent in Providence -- had lead levels identified as dangerous by the Centers for Disease Control.
Section 8 apartments with hazardous lead levels will be identified by a new computer system that will match the address of children with high lead levels to addresses of apartments in the Section 8 program. The match will be done on a monthly basis to ensure that children at risk are protected.
A new HUD regulation will go into effect early next year to provide greater protection from lead hazards to residents of HUD-assisted housing around the nation.
The agreement with Rhode Island was developed to go into effect more quickly, because there are a large number of older homes in Rhode Island -- making the problem of lead-based paint hazards more severe than in many other states.
The Rhode Island Health Department will continue to pay for lead-based paint assessments in the primary residence of lead-poisoned children. Local housing authorities will pay for assessments of housing units into which lead-poisoned children will move.
Lead is most hazardous to children under six because their still-developing nervous systems are particularly vulnerable. In addition, their normal play activities expose them to lead-contaminated dust, soil and paint chips.
High blood levels of lead can cause permanent damage to the nervous system, reduced intelligence and attention span, reading and learning disabilities, and behavior problems.
Because of the hazards it poses, lead paint was outlawed in 1978, but it remains on the walls and ceilings of many older homes.
Current HUD regulations require that dwellings built before 1978 and occupied by families with children younger than six under the Section 8 program undergo initial and periodic visual inspection for defective paint surfaces. Such surfaces must be removed or covered. In addition, homes occupied by families with children who have elevated blood lead levels must have their chewable surfaces tested for the presence of lead.
Content Archived: January 20, 2009