WASHINGTON – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced that the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations bill includes important investments in housing agencies and reforms to the Housing and Urban Development agency regarding lead paint.
In the next step of the appropriations process, the bill will move to the Senate floor for a vote, which has not yet been scheduled.
“Maryland families need a government on their side when it comes to their health, their families’ health, and putting a roof over their heads,” Senator Mikulski said. “I am proud to have worked to put money in the federal checkbook that builds and protects our communities, while helping some of our most vulnerable populations. Marylanders can count on me to continue standing up for their day-to-day needs.”
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)
The bill includes $3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which provides state and local governments federal funding for economic development, neighborhood revitalization, public works and public facilities, housing programs and blighted removal. In 2016, Maryland received $45 million from HUD.
The bill includes $135 million for the Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control to provide cities and states with grants to help remove lead paint from old housing and prevent children from being exposed to environmental hazards, a $25 million increase from the previous year. Lead paint is an especially bad problem in old, Northeastern cities. Baltimore City has nearly three times the national rate of lead poisoning, which disproportionately affects African-American children living in old, distressed housing.
Senator Mikulski has long been an advocate for eliminating lead hazards. In 2003, she created a new lead paint demonstration program focused on abatement in the nation’s most affected cities. She has also consistently fought to increase funding for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Lead Hazard Reduction program. This program is now funded at $55 million, an increase of $10 million from current levels.
In August, 2015, Senator Mikulski announced $3,365,733 in Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration grant program funding and $325,000 in Healthy Homes supplemental funding was awarded to Baltimore City. This federal funding is part of federal funding she worked to include in Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2015. To combat lead poisoning, this funding will help Baltimore City collaborate with a diverse set of local partners, including the Baltimore City Health Department and the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative to identify and cut down on lead paint in low- and very low-income homes.
“Children are disproportionately at risk for lead poisoning in major urban areas, especially in old Northeastern cities. Children from poor families are at the greatest risk – they are eight times more likely to get lead poisoning than other children,” said Senator Mikulski. “That’s why I fought to create the lead paint demonstration program and stand up each year to increase funding to remove lead-based paint from homes in Maryland and across the country. Baltimore families deserve a government on their side. This funding is an important step in protecting children from lead exposure and make a real difference for Baltimore’s families.”
Lead poisoning is the number one environmental hazard threatening children throughout the United States. It can reduce IQ, cause learning disabilities and impair hearing. Elevated and high exposures to lead can damage children’s kidneys and central nervous system, and can cause anemia, confusion, and even death. It is estimated that anti-social behaviors and increased special education needs caused by lead poisoning costs the general public millions of dollars each year due to lost wages and burden on taxpayers.
Additionally, this bill includes significant reforms to prevent lead paint exposure and increase oversight and efficiency of the Housing and Urban Development agency. First, it directs the Housing and Urban Development agency to update its blood level standard of lead paint exposure to the one recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HUD has not updated its acceptable standard since 1999, but the CDC has come out with much lower lead levels. When the blood level standard is updated, it is expected that 1,500 additional public housing units with children under the age of 6 will require intervention and remediation. A $25 million increase in the Public Housing Capital Fund Account is also included for these interventions to fix the lead paint in these buildings that will be included.
The bill also directs HUD to include “zero-bedroom dwellings”, or studios and efficiency apartments, in the eligible units for remediation grants. In 2009, an American Housing survey estimated that there were 34,000 of these units housing children under 6 years old. With these units not being eligible for grants, which means thousands of children could be living in dangerous and poisonous conditions.
Oversight and enforcement by HUD are also addressed. The bill directs the Government Accountability Office to review HUD’s policies and procedures to ensure compliance by public housing with lead regulations. Additionally, oversight of both public and private compliance is required under this bill to ensure no one will be exposing their children to lead paint hazards.