Cleveland Expands Exterior Paint Program
Last week, members of the Cleveland City Council approved legislation authorizing an expanded exterior paint program for eligible homeowners.
The program aims to improve the city’s housing stock—much of which is over 100 years old—by offering free paint, suppliers and, for the first time, labor for exterior home painting projects.
In addition, the legislation also allows the Department of Development to enter into agreements with eligible homeowners and tenants for the purchasing of paint, supplies and labor. Through this pilot program, elderly, disabled or low-income residents would have to be referred by community engagement specialists.
City council adds that the traditional voucher program for free paint and supplies to approved residents will happen simultaneously.
Part of making Cleveland a better place to live is improving our neighborhoods.— Justin M. Bibb (@JustinMBibb) May 18, 2022
This program provides eligible homeowners free paint, supplies, and labor for exterior home painting projects: https://t.co/d5sTWlSZGG
According to reports, the council reestablished the paint program several years ago to create incentives among homeowners and tenants to maintain the exteriors of their homes. Dually, the program also works to reduce lead-based paint hazards.
The newly approved program is expected to cover the labor costs for 50 households (up to $10,000) in 2022.
Lead-Safe Legislation in Cleveland
In February 2019, Cleveland officials and members of local philanthropic, healthcare, environmental and educational organizations formed the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition in an effort to create a more “lead-safe” city and further prevent lead poisoning.
According to reports at the time, lead paint was believed to plague more than 80% of the city’s older housing stock. In 2018, more than 1,200 children in Cleveland were poisoned by the toxin.
Six months later, in July, Cleveland City Council would introduce—and later pass that same month—legislation crafted by the coalition requiring mandatory lead-safe certificates for pre-1978 rental properties. The bill also took input from real estate groups, local hospitals and Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing (CLASH).
The legislation was sponsored by Health and Human Services Committee Chair Blaine Griffin, Vice-Chair Kerry McCormack and Council President Kevin Kelley, and was co-sponsored by former mayor Frank Jackson.
In addition to requiring that landlords and property owners pay for private inspections and secure lead-safe certificates for their occupied rental units by March 1, 2023, the law also:
While the legislation did not include any mandates for childcare facilities built before 1978, CLASH reported at the time of the bill’s passing that it would be working with state and county authorities to create one. The group also intended to push several amendments, including ones that would advance tenant protections through a rent deposit program.
Since then, Cleveland officials have been enforcing the lead rules a few ZIP codes at a time. Despite a slow start, the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University, which audits the lead program, reported that the city witnessed a surge in lead-safe applications in the final months of 2021.
According to reports, rentals in Shaker Square and much of the West Side hit their compliance deadlines last year, while Old Brooklyn and parts of Clark-Fulton are expected to meet deadlines in 2022. Although the city has been able to confirm the certification of nearly 9,200 thus far, Martin believes that there are likely some 100,000 units out there despite having only 61,000 registered in the system.
As a requirement by the city, landlords are supposed to have their rentals registered with the city, which is intended to help city workers keep track of who needs to comply with the lead paint law. Despite this requirement, it is presumed that many rentals could be flying under the city’s radar.
To mitigate the issue, Lead-Safe Cleveland Coalition is trying to get the word out through marketing and canvassing with the help of foundations and nonprofits. Since the lead-safe law was passed, it has also worked to set up a resource center for landlords, tenants, clearance technicians and contractors.
To date, the coalition has raised more than $100 million to help property owners, however, failing to certify a rental as lead safe is a minor misdemeanor, which comes with a fine. While reports indicate that the city has only issued a few dozen notices of violation thus far, Cleveland’s Director of Building and Housing, Sally Martin, said she plans to be much more aggressive in taking noncompliant landlords to housing court this year.
In October 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched a new training initiative, Enhancing Lead-Safe Work Practices through Education and Outreach (SoCal ELSWPEO), in Southern California communities.
The new program aims to raise awareness about childhood lead exposure and protect environmentally overburdened and underserved communities across the nation from lead exposure. The initiative arrives in accordance with the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advancing environmental justice.
According to the EPA, the ELSWPEO plans to increase both the number of renovation, repair and painting (RRP) certified firms and consumer demand for lead-safe work practices as a means to better serve communities and advance environmental justice.
To achieve this, the combined approach sessions work hand-in-hand to increase awareness of the potential dangers of lead exposure and actions that can be taken to reduce potential exposure to lead, including the availability of RRP certified contractors in traditionally underserved communities.
The two-pronged approach to reducing lead exposure includes the following initiatives:
In launching the program in Southern California, the EPA reports that new trainings will be held in Los Angeles and San Diego counties.
The EPA adds, however, that both RRP trainings and Lead Awareness Curriculum Train-the-Trainer sessions are currently available in the following communities as well: Albuquerque, New Mexico; the Bismarck-Mandan, North Dakota area; Hartford, Connecticut; Los Angeles County, California; Miami; Peoria, Illinois; Reading, Pennsylvania; San Juan, Puerto Rico; San Diego County, California; Boise, Idaho; and Trenton, New Jersey.
These communities reportedly reflect the diversity of the U.S., have known lead exposure issues and demonstrated a need for RRP certified contractors.