On March 3, Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduced the “Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2016” (S. 2631/H.R. 4694) in the Senate and House respectively. The bills would protect children living in federally assisted housing from lead poisoning. While lead poisoning rates have fallen since the federal government enacted lead polices in the 1990s, the problem persists. Lead poisoning disproportionately impacts the children of minority and low income families.
The bills would require HUD to implement preventive measures and revise its blood lead intervention regulations to reflect the level used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bills also would require HUD to issue rules that mandate an initial risk assessment for lead-based hazards in low income housing constructed prior to 1978 before a family with a child under six years olds moves in. More rigorous examination than a mere visual inspection would be required for an initial risk assessment. The bills remove the lead inspection exemption for studio apartments that will be occupied by families with children under six years old, and they provide an emergency transfer process for families without penalty or loss of assistance if a lead hazard is found in the home and a child has an elevated blood lead level. Finally, the measures would require the Government Accountability Office to submit a report to Congress with policy proposals on how to better detect and remediate lead hazards in federally assisted housing. The bills would authorize appropriations sufficient to carry out their requirements for five years.
“We must address the affordable rental housing crisis by providing homes that are both safe and affordable. It is wrong to force families to choose between affordable housing and safe housing,” said Representative Ellison when introducing the House bill. “While we have come a long way in reducing lead poisoning, millions of children are still at risk because of outdated regulations and examination techniques. We must provide the resources to allow the Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide lead-free homes to America’s children when it updates its lead regulations to current standards.”
Senator Durbin stated: “We know that there is no safe level of lead for children, yet the Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations seem to ignore this fact. We must invest in prevention which has unparalleled cost savings for society. Every dollar spent on lead hazard control yields a return of $17 to $221 in savings. Most importantly, lead poisoning prevention preserves a child’s ability to reach his or her full potential. American children are depending on this legislation. It can’t wait.”
The bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Representatives Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) are also cosponsors of H.R. 4694.
Learn more about the Senate version of the bill at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/2631
Learn more about the House version of the bill at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4694