$2.4M lead paint program may be revised

Changes designed to attract more applicants to remove lead-based paint from Springfield, Clark homes.

The revised program, designed for low-income families with children ages 6 and younger, will now provide grants for homeowners instead of loans and increase the amount of money that can be spent on each home.

Up to $10,000 in grants for homeowners and deferred loans for landlords with rental properties, plus the option to borrow more, is now available.

“We wanted to be try to be flexible and reach out to more people,” said Ed Leinasars, the city’s housing rehabilitation administrator and Lead Safe program manager.

Springfield city commissioners will likely vote on the changes in two weeks.

In 2012, 37 children showed elevated lead levels in their blood, out of more than 3,050 tested in Clark County, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Houses built before 1978 could have lead-based paint. Exposure to the paint can cause brain damage, developmental disabilities, blindness and in severe cases, death. It can also affect pregnant women and their unborn child.

Lead Safe Springfield is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has provided the program with $17.5 million in federal grants since 1997. The program has reduced the amount of hazardous paint in more than 1,200 units in Springfield and Clark County.

In 2012, the city received $2.4 million from HUD to reduce lead paint in 160 units by next May. They’ve provided assistance to 23 homes since July 2012. The money can also be used for qualified participants to make repairs to household safety items like hand rails and smoke detectors.

Leinasars said the format and process of the program will remain the same.

Previously, the program provided zero-interest loans up to $8,000 for a single unit and up to $16,000 for a duplex with no monthly payments. After three years of compliance, half of the loan was forgiven and the rest would be paid back once the property was sold or the title transferred.

Under the latest revision, the program has been split into two categories: owner/occupant and rental properties.

A single-family homeowner who is income qualified can receive up to $10,000 in grant money for lead repairs that doesn’t need to be paid back. Owners can also receive an additional $5,000 if needed, which will be forgiven after five years of compliance.

Landlords can received up to $10,000 in a deferred loan, half of which will be forgiven after one year of compliance. They can also receive up to an additional $5,000 in an installation loan.

The changes are designed to increase participation from city and county residents who may have been on the fence, Leinasars said.

“We’re trying to bump up the per unit number a little bit and also provide an option to go well beyond that, especially when you get to some of those neighborhoods who may have bigger homes and larger issues,” Leinasars said.

Last October, the city distributed packets at both kindergarten classes and day cares to alert parents to the dangers of lead-based paint.

Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said many residents often overlook that their homes might have lead paint during the purchase process.

“There’s so much paperwork that its not one of the first things you think about,” he said.

The Clark County Combined Health District has teamed up with the city on the program to expand it to county residents. The proposed changes will make the program more accessible to more people, Patterson said.

“In today’s economy, that’s even more important,” he said.

The county has pockets of areas with older homes in need of the renovations, Patterson said, including areas such as South Charleston, South Vienna and Tremont City.

“It’s great to have this program inside the city, as well as outside of the city limits,” he said, “because like all health problems, it doesn’t care about a geopolitical line.”

For more information on the program, log on to ci.springfield.oh.us or call 937-328-3930.

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