Advocates Urged to Endorse Lead-Safe Housing Bill

Organizations are urged to endorse a lead-safe housing bill about to be introduced.  The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative are seeking organizations to endorse “The Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2019” even before it is formally introduced. The original sponsors for the bi-partisan and bi-cameral bill include Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Donald McEachin (D-VA). Additional members are being contacted to co-sponsor the bill. The bill is identical to “The Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2017” (S. 1845).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consistently cautions that no level of lead exposure is safe, and lead poisoning results in permanent brain damage, among other disabilities. But HUD does not require pre-rental lead hazard risk assessments in the Housing Choice Voucher program or at project-based Section 8 housing receiving less than $5,000 in assistance. Children in these federally assisted housing programs must develop lead poisoning before any meaningful lead hazard inspection is required. In 2016, HUD identified 57,000 federally assisted housing units with active lead hazards and an additional 450,000 units built before 1978 that were occupied by a child, exposing them to potential lead contamination.

The “Lead Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2019” would:

  1. Require lead hazard risk assessments and controls in all federally assisted housing (but not housing covered by federal mortgage insurance) prior to occupancy by a child under the age of six;
  2. Give families the ability to relocate on an emergency basis from a unit with an uncontrolled lead hazard without losing their housing assistance; and
  3. Authorize appropriations necessary to carry out the amendments made by the Act.

To endorse the bill, send an email to Emily Benfer at: emily.benfer@law.columbia.edu, indicating your organization’s name and a contact person. Emily is a visiting associate clinical professor of law and the director of the Health Justice Advocacy Clinic at Columbia Law School.