A home on Detroit's east side (file photo)

Residents who live in southwest Detroit can now apply to have lead-based paint removed from their homes for free, the city of Detroit announced Thursday.

This story also appeared in Detroit Free Press

The city plans to enroll 455 households in the 48209 ZIP code area into the program over five years. Households with children under 6 years old, with a pregnant mother or with children who have tested positive for lead will be prioritized, according to a news release. Residents can get up to $25,000 in repairs per home.

The 48209 ZIP code area in southwest Detroit was chosen because a majority of homes were built before lead-based paint was banned and there is a high number of low-income families and children under 6 living there. It is bound by Vernor Highway to the north, Woodmere to the west, Livernois to the east and I-75 to the south.

“We encourage residents in this priority census tract to participate in this lead hazard reduction program and to get their children tested for lead. Our goal is to create a ‘Lead Safe Detroit,’ ” Donald Rencher, director of the Housing & Revitalization Department, said in the release.

Southwest Detroit residents living in the designated area can apply at bit.ly/DetroitLeadSafe, by e-mailing gettheleadout@detroitmi.gov or by calling 313-348-0110. Spanish speakers can call 313-348-5581. Work will begin in October.

The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s High Impact Neighborhood grant program is funding the effort with a $9.7 million award granted last October — the largest single amount given to a local government for lead-abatement efforts. Detroit is one of seven communities getting the money. The city of Detroit is matching $1.16 million.

“It can cost up to $25,000 to properly remediate lead paint from a single house, and that is a cost that is simply unattainable to many Detroiters,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in the release. “This program will keep kids safe and families in their homes. Just because a family isn’t wealthy doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a safe house for their child.”

The city will spend $9.1 million on the lead-based paint hazardreduction grant program and $600,000 supplemental funding for “healthy homes assessments” to address housing-related health and safety hazards, like mold, allergens, carbon monoxide and radon, and lead-based paint. The assessments, which began in February, cover 120 homes and is ongoing.

 More than three-quarters of the housing stock in the 48209 ZIP code was built before 1940.

 Lead-based paint often remains in homes built before the paint was banned in 1978. The paint poses a threat when it chips and peels and becomes a source of lead poisoning, which has been linked to learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

In Detroit, 1,632 out of 22,165 children tested in a 2017 study had elevated blood lead levels.

“When a small child gets lead dust or paint chips on their hands, they may put them in their mouth, and that’s the primary way they get exposed. And when lead paint in the house cracks or peels it can create lead dust. Approximately 90% of all elevated blood lead levels results from lead paint dust and surrounding soil in those aging homes,” Denise Fair, chief health officer for the City of Detroit, said in the release.

To be eligible for the program:

  • The home or rental property must have been built before 1978.
  • The house must be located in the 48209 ZIP code in one of four census tracts, including 5238, 5240, 5241 and 5242.
  • Household income is at or below 80% of the area median income.
  • There must be a child 6 years old or younger, or a pregnant woman in the house at the time of the application intake, or there is a visiting child 6 years old or younger at the house for more than 60 hours per year.

Non-southwest Detroit residents can use the Lead Hazard Reduction Program. It uses a site-specific lead inspection and risk assessment to determine:

  • The nature and scope of lead hazards in a home.
  • The types of controls needed — like lead cleanings, interim controls and abatement techniques — to eliminate lead-based paints hazards.
  • The conditions that contribute to these hazards.

The program remediates lead hazards in eligible single-family homes — one to four units — throughout Detroit. To apply for a grant through this program, residents can e-mail gettheleadout@detroitmi.gov or call 313-224-6380.

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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