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041618bp-lead-abatement

J.R. Wolff removes an old window from a home at 724 Reber Ave. in Waterloo Monday. The home is part of a lead paint abatement project using a federal grant through the Waterloo Community Development Board.

WATERLOO — A program designed to remove lead paint hazards from homes with young children is getting a fresh start.

The Waterloo Community Development Board last week kicked off a new three-year, $2.9 million federally funded effort to remove the dangers from older owner-occupied homes and rental units.

While the city previously received the Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development dating back to 2003, it lost the program in 2015. HUD reinstated the funding for Waterloo this year.

Community Development Director Rudy Jones said the money, coupled with the city’s Community Development Block Grant housing rehabilitation dollars, will help remove lead hazards and fix up some 120 housing units over the next three years.

“Due to reduced annual CDBG and HOME allocations, any additional funds that come to the community allow us to serve more clients that might not have the resources,” Jones said. “This gives us the ability to put a stake in the ground and be in better position for future funding.”

Jon Martin, the board’s rehabilitation/relocation specialist, said it was important for qualified applicants to begin signing up for assistance now. Nearly 60 homeowners have already signed up.

“It’s important to get your name on the list,” Martin said. “We’re only doing 120, and it may fill up quick.”

To be eligible, a person must own their home built before 1978, have a child in the household age 5 or under and earn 80 percent of the median income or less. The qualifying maximum gross income for a family of four is $54,400, while a two-member household income can’t exceed $43,550.

The program covers the removal of lead paint, which was banned in 1978 due to the devastating health effects it can have when ingested by young children. It also includes additional home repairs, including new electrical and heating systems or structural issues.

Unlike previous Waterloo lead abatement grants, this program also includes landlords with rental units with lead hazards. The program provides up to $20,000 per rental unit to address the hazards but require landlords to provide a 20 percent match.

The Black Hawk County Health Department is a key partner in the program, providing blood testing for children and doing the home assessments to determine material with lead content.

Routine testing has found 45 children in Black Hawk County with elevated blood lead levels in the last two years, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Black Hawk County Public Health Director Dr. Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye said “childhood lead poisoning has significant effects on the health of children and on community health.”

“Lead has adverse effects on nearly all organ systems in the body,” she said. “It is especially harmful to the developing brains and nervous systems of children under the age of 6 years.”

Qualifying homeowners and landlords wanting to sign up for the program should contact Eric Kramer at the Community Development Office, 620 Mulberry St., at 291-4429 or comdev@waterloo-ia.org.

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