The City of Portland is urging landlords to apply for lead hazard program funds to increase child safety in apartments. In June 2015, the Maine legislature lowered the state’s childhood lead poisoning standard down to 5 micrograms per deciliter and the State of Maine began implementation of the stricter law in September of last year. Public health and affordable housing providers welcomed Maine’s law change as it puts the state’s intervention level in line with federal recommendations. The law also increased the Maine Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) ability to enforce the law through increased staff and the authority to fine property owners who do not comply with lead abatement orders.
“There’s been a lot of discussion around housing and rental prices in the past year and childhood lead poisoning is part of this issue. The City wants to help both landlords and tenants to ensure they don’t need to choose between safe and affordable housing,” said Colleen Hennessy, the Lead Safe Housing Program Manager for Portland and Cumberland County. “It’s great that we have federal funds available to remove lead hazards from properties in Portland and Cumberland County, but with the increased levels of children being identified as lead poisoned, state services are under increased demand, so we recommend tenants and landlords contact us now.”
Landlords are reporting an increase in lead inspections conducted by the State and an increase in lead abatement orders which means that a property owner needs to undertake lead removal work within 30 days or face penalties. However, the City encourages landlords to apply for funding for lead hazard testing from its program before a child is poisoned and before they are at risk of such penalties. While the Lead Safe Housing program in Portland and Cumberland County is funded through federal HUD money, most of the screening, prevention, and enforcement services for childhood lead poisoning are funded by the Fund for Healthy Maine.
In the short period of time since the new requirements were put in place, the lowered intervention threshold has already resulted in a four-fold increase in the number of children identified as lead poisoned. This means about 450-500 more children each year are going to receive the follow-up they need to address the hazardous environments they are living in than would have been if the threshold had not been lowered.
The Housing & Community Development Division of Portland is eager to work with landlords to make healthy low-income housing available and urges them to take advantage of the Lead Safe Housing Program according to Colleen Hennessy, “We want children to have access to healthy and affordable homes and the lead program is an important tool to increase the affordable housing stock in Portland and Westbrook as it assists landlords to make their properties lead safe in exchange for their agreement to rent to low-income families with children under six.”
For more information, please visit Lead Safe Housing or contact Colleen Hennessy at 207.874.8983.