The Columbus Dispatch

HUD grant expands home hazard removal program

- Barrett Lawlis

LANCASTER – A new grant expands which Fairfield County homeowners with homes older than 1978 can get help to have healthier homes.

The Healthy Homes Initiative is one of two programs, funded by grants from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Developmen­t, that can address hazards within homes for qualifying homeowners.

Lynda Berge Disser, executive director of the community developmen­t department, said the expansion is a separate grant of $1 million, but both grants are designed as lead abatement programs.

“The Lead Hazard Control Healthy Homes Program was the first grant we received, for an amount of $1.4 million. It was designed to help families in homes that might have lead paint in them, especially when there are children present that are six years of age or younger,” she said. “Preventing lead exposure is especially important for children, as it can have effects during their developmen­t. We received that grant in 2021. It includes grandparen­ts who care for grandchild­ren or parents expecting a baby.”

Berge Disser explained the new grant also targets other hazards with the Healthy Homes Initiative, going beyond lead control to address environmen­tal and safety concerns like mold, allergens, carbon monoxide, pesticide and radon.

“The second grant also expands who qualifies for these funds, such as senior homeowners, people with disabiliti­es, or families with children up to 18 years old. There are certain restrictio­ns on those who can qualify for the program, such as income, but we encourage anyone to reach out to see if they qualify, because these hazards are dangerous,” she said.

Berge Disser said it’s still surprising how many homes may still have lead and other hazards, like asbestos, present.

“The push to reduce those hazards is still there, and we’re pushing for a leadfree Fairfield County. It’s a federal process, so it can take some time, and we have some people in the pipeline, but we encourage anyone who thinks they qualify to apply,” she said. “There is a state program that could help those applicants that may not qualify for the federal program. We have more informatio­n on our website, or anyone can call

our office for help.”

Funding is not restricted to Lancaster as 70% of funds available are reserved for the city, but the remainder can be used by homeowners and property owners in the county. Berge Disser said her department applied for the grants with the intention of benefiting the county.

Berge Disser added funding is available to homeowners and to property owners, as long as the property in question is being rented to a family that would qualify for the program.

“Also, it isn’t something for anyone that’s trying to flip a house. There is a minimum residency requiremen­t for the initiative. This program won’t renovate a home for free then allow the owner to sell it right away,” she said.

Peggy and Johnny Conrad live in the city’s Fifth Ward, and received help remodeling their home through a similar program as the Healthy Homes Initiative, only funded through a Medicaid State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

The remodel resulted in a replacemen­t of 15 windows, electrical and appliance work, and reduction of lead paint throughout the home.

Peggy said she had suspected there was lead present in the home, because of its age, but wasn’t sure until it was tested.

“We’ve seen such an improvemen­t now, and feel much safer for our grandchild­ren. It’s helped us safe on our utility bills, which is a benefit in the winter. The applicatio­n process wasn’t that difficult, and the people at the community developmen­t department were a huge help,” she said. “We were very concerned about making this home safe for the grandchild­ren, so it was an easy decision to apply.”

Robert Sulick, a Housing Program Coordinato­r with the city, said an inspection is done once the department receives an applicatio­n. He’ll check the house for visual clues about hazards, and an environmen­tal survey group will test afterward.

“Once hazards are identified and the

work is approved and completed, an inspection is done afterwards to make sure the hazards have been diminished. For instance, when the windows were replaced for the Conrads, the windows’ seals and troughs were checked to make sure lead dust was removed,” Sulick said. “Now, children present in the homes also have their blood’s lead levels checked, due to their proximity to the ground, and how likely it is for them to ingest the dust as they crawl on the floor.”

Peggy said she was pleased with how the work progressed, from when the remodel was approved to its completion. It wasn’t instant, she said, but it didn’t feel drawn out either.

“I was amazed how much was covered through the program, and I would definitely encourage anyone that could qualify to get help through the new initiative. I know everyone with children wants a healthy environmen­t for them, and many homeowners may not understand what hazards may be present, but not visible,” she said.

 ?? BARRETT LAWLIS/LANCASTER EAGLE-GAZETTE ?? Peggy Conrad points to a new window installed in her home during a renovation funded by a Medicaid State Children’s Health Insurance Program. A similar program from the US Department of Housing and Urban Developmen­t could reduce a number of hazards in homes in Fairfield County for qualifying homeowners.
BARRETT LAWLIS/LANCASTER EAGLE-GAZETTE Peggy Conrad points to a new window installed in her home during a renovation funded by a Medicaid State Children’s Health Insurance Program. A similar program from the US Department of Housing and Urban Developmen­t could reduce a number of hazards in homes in Fairfield County for qualifying homeowners.

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