By Charlene Lovett
This is part two of a two-part series.
In New Hampshire, the primary source of lead poisoning is lead-based paint in homes. This is because over 60% of our housing stock was built before 1978, the year lead-based paint was banned in the U.S. However, that percentage fluctuates from community to community and can be as high as in the 80th percentile. Over time, the integrity of lead-based paint has deteriorated releasing dust particles into the air if disturbed. Frictions surfaces (e.g. lead-painted doors, windows, floors, and stairs) and home renovations are primary sources of childhood lead poisoning within homes. Given it only takes a small amount of lead-based paint dust, equal to the size of a few grains of sugar, to poison a child if ingested or inhaled, knowing what resources are available and how to safely remove lead hazards from homes is critical to protecting children.
In October of last year, Sullivan County was awarded a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant of $1.7 million to address lead and other health hazards in homes. Soon after, the county established the Sullivan County Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes Program to disburse those funds. Already, property owners in the county are taking advantage of this program. In my last article, I wrote about a Claremont family whose young sons were both poisoned by lead from dust particles in their home which was built in 1914. By applying for and receiving these funds and a 0% interest loan from the New Hampshire Lead Paint Hazard Remediation Fund Program, this family now has the resources to remove the lead hazards. Contractors, certified to work safely with lead-based paint, are replacing lead-based painted windows with vinyl windows, lead-based painted plaster with sheet rock and enclosing lead-based painted clapboards with vinyl siding.
If you own a property in Sullivan County, you may be eligible to receive the HUD grant funds too. The county’s Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes Program is income based and open to both owner occupied, single family homeowners, as well as landlords. Homeowners can earn up to 80% of the Area Median Family Income (AMFI) as defined by HUD. That amount increases with the number of family members. For example, if you are a family of two, you can earn up to $54,600 to be eligible. If you are a family of four, that amount increases to $68,250. For landlords, there is no income limit; however, eligibility is based on the tenants’ income utilizing the same AMFI criteria. Whether a homeowner or landlord, children under six must either live on the premises or visit as the primary purpose of this grant is to prevent childhood lead poisoning.
As part of the application process a certified lead inspector/risk assessor visits the property and identifies lead and other healthy home hazards. Eliminating lead hazards may require window replacement, vinyl siding, new baseboards, new interior/exterior paint, sheetrock, drop ceilings or new floors and stairs. Addressing healthy home issues may require improving lighting, heating, water, sewer and electrical systems. Homeowners who are approved for the grant program receive up to $12,000 for lead abatement work and up to $5,000 for healthy home improvements. Landlords also receive up to the same amounts for each qualifying unit.
If these amounts are not sufficient to address the lead and healthy home hazards, homeowners and landlords can also apply for zero percent loans from the New Hampshire Lead Paint Hazard Remediation Fund. Such loans are paid back upon the sale of the property. In this program, the income eligibility is based on 90% of AMFI. So, those who earn too much money to be eligible for the grant program may qualify for the loan. Homeowners are eligible to borrow up to $100,000 if they occupy the property, and landlords can borrow up to $11,000 per unit.
Protecting children from the lasting effects of lead poisoning is something that we can all do. Here in Sullivan County, we are working diligently to connect resources to property owners. If you are interested in finding out more about the grant and loan programs, please contact the program manager, Kate Kirkwood, at (603) 781-4304 or email her at email@example.com.
Charlene Lovett is the mayor of Claremont and a 22-year Army veteran. She welcomes your feedback. Please email questions, comments or concerns to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.