Utica, N.Y. (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY-TV)— The HomeOwnership Center is calling on Utica residents to take advantage of their “Lead Safe Utica Grant Program.” The program helps homeowners, landlords and tenants remove lead hazards from their homes at no cost thanks to funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“The program is free,” Christine Lennon, the Lead Safe Utica Program Manager at the HomeOwnership Center said. “It’s free to landlords, to tenants there’s no cost so up to $20,000 in repairs to your units for lead remediation. We will also take a look at what other needs that home might have we’ll do some health and safety renovations, so if there’s asthma triggers and people are suffering from asthma in that home we’re gonna remove those triggers. If there’s a moisture problem we’re gonna look to remove the moisture problem and control any mold that you might have. We’re gonna look for fire hazards and if there’s fire hazards and we can, we’re gonna try and treat them. So we come in with lead in mind but if you qualify for lead we’re looking at your whole house to see what else we can help you with.”
The program was created to prevent childhood lead poisoning. Lead poisoning in children is alarmingly high in Oneida County and exposure to lead in children below the age of six can lead to damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development learning and behavior problems, speech and hearing problems, lower IQ, decreased ability to pay attention and underperformance in school. Effects of lead poisoning are permanent. New York State has the highest levels of lead poisoning out of all 50 states, and a child is more likely to become lead poisoned in Oneida County than anywhere else in the country largely because more than 80% of housing in Utica was built before 1978, the year it became illegal to use lead paint.
“I mean we’re talking about structures that were constructed nearly 100 years ago,” John T. Adams, the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative Outcome Broker at Cornell Cooperative Extension Oneida County said. “And the paint was put on there somewhere between maybe 80 to 70 years ago and while the structures were more intact and the paint wasn’t chipping in the 50s, 60, 70s fast forward to now the upkeep again is just not there, the structures are that much older that base layer of lead-based paint is breaking down even more.”
The grants can be used on up to 180 housing units, to qualify eligible families must live in Utica, have a home built before 1978, have a child under the age of six spending significant time in the home, and must meet income guidelines.
“If you want to know is there something that is a concern in my house look for chipped and peeling paint on your windows on your door frames, even things like is your door sticking and rubbing against your frame because that is going to cause lead dust to get on the floor your child is going to put their toys on it they’re gonna put that in their mouth they’re going to be breathing that in, Lennon explained.”