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SPRINGFIELD — Significant funding for lead hazard control and abatement projects have been unused, and the city of Springfield and the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts are alerting homeowners about the available grants and forgivable loans.

The program is aimed at removing lead from homes with children under age 6 and is available to homeowners and landlords as long as the tenants for the units qualify. Information on the program can be accessed by calling (413) 787-6500 or visiting www.springfield-ma.gov.

The Lead-based Paint Hazard Reduction Program provides funds to Springfield residents in the form of grants to single-family homeowners and forgivable loans for investor-owned properties. The city procures a licensed lead-abatement contractor for the work to be done and manages the project from start to finish, assisting the homeowner in overseeing completion. Work will result in a Letter of Full Deleading Compliance.

Lead paint is a major health hazard, especially for young children. Springfield is one of the highest-risk communities in Massachusetts for lead poisoning, based on the number of children identified as having elevated blood lead levels, the percentage of families living below 200% of the poverty threshold, and the percentage of housing built before 1978. The Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program assesses a community’s risk level annually.

The city-wide lead-abatement program is made possible through grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the city of Springfield in order to create affordable, lead-safe, and healthy housing in the city to maximize the number of young children protected from lead poisoning.

“As a first-time homebuyer of a two-family home, I wanted to do some work to prepare the rental unit for occupancy,” said Wesley Swan, a Springfield homeowner. “Participating in the lead-abatement program allowed me to not only fast-track that rehab I had in mind, but also opened up the pool of tenant applicants I could move in. There’s a real benefit to removing concerns about future liability and just the peace of mind knowing that it’s lead-safe.”

To qualify for these lead-abatement funds, the homeowners for single-family homes, or tenants of investor-owned properties, must be income-eligible and have a child under age 6 or a pregnant woman residing in the unit or home.

For owner-occupied single-family homes, grants are given to approved applicants up to $20,000 for lead abatement. For investor-owned properties, approved landlord applicants are given funding in the form of zero-interest, forgivable loans, up to $13,000 per unit. The homeowner must remain in the home or continue to rent to qualified families for at least three years after work is completed.

According to Geraldine McCafferty, director of Housing for the city of Springfield, “the federal government continues to demonstrate its support for lead-paint-abatement services for low-income families, and it’s great to be able to share these resources with families in need with the funds the city now has available.”

As part of the outreach to Springfield residents about the lead-abatement program, the city and the Public Health Institute are also raising awareness about the dangers of lead paint when homeowners do renovation work themselves. Lead dust — not lead paint — is the top cause of lead poisoning. Any cut made into a surface painted with lead paint, even if the paint is covered by layers of newer paint, risks exposure to hazardous lead dust.

“Lead poisoning leads to long-term health impacts for children and for adults. During the pandemic, many people have started home-renovation projects not anticipating that they may be risking exposure to hazardous lead dust,” said Sarita Hudson, director of Programs and Development for the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts.

For information on how to protect yourself and your family during home renovations, visit springfieldhealthyhomes.org/lead. For more information and to apply for the lead-abatement program, call (413) 787-6500 or e-mail [email protected].