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City weighs lead-safe certification for rentals

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    Attorney Bob Cole says other cities have decreased the number of children exposed to lead hazards by implementing lead-safe certification programs.

    THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY
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Supporters of a proposal to require some older Toledo rental properties to be certified “lead-safe” on Thursday publicly endorsed the measure, which they say is an affordable way to prevent lead poisoning in children.

n6bobcole-1

Attorney Bob Cole says other cities have decreased the number of children exposed to lead hazards by implementing lead-safe certification programs.

THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Representatives from Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson’s office, Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, and the Toledo Lead Poisoning Prevention Coalition spoke Thursday outside the health department building.

The ordinance would require rental properties built before 1978, the year the federal government banned lead-based paint for residential use, to be inspected for lead hazards such as peeling paint, lead dust, and exposed soil. The ordinance would affect single-family rental homes and duplexes and not owner-occupied homes or multiunit apartments.

Supporters called it a proactive approach that would decrease lead poisoning in children and would be a smaller financial commitment than invasive lead abatement.

Owners would have to treat problem areas with interim controls — methods less invasive or costly than full abatement — before the property could be rented.

Interim controls could include covering exposed soil, cleaning dusty surfaces, or new coats of paint.

Bob Cole, managing attorney at Advocates for Basic Legal Equality and member of the prevention coalition, said cities such as Rochester, N.Y., have decreased the number of children exposed to lead hazards through similar approaches. In Toledo, he said, children in low-income and African-American communities are the hardest hit.

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“There is no reason why, as a city and a community, we cannot protect our children the same way that they are protecting children in Rochester,” he said.

He called it a low-cost approach that can significantly reduce lead poisoning, while not costing landlords tens of thousands of dollars. The health department would be the primary supervising agency for registration and enforcement.

“It plays into the overall health and well-being of the community when we can say that our community is lead- safe, our housing is lead-safe,” said Eric Zgodzinski, interim deputy health commissioner. “We’ve said in this building for years that we’re always chasing lead and that is the issue. ... That will be limited and hopefully stopped with this ordinance.”

Mr. Zgodzinski said costs to complete interim controls vary based on the size of the dwelling and how much work is needed, but estimated the preventive measures would cost between a few hundred dollars and $1,200. Property owners would also need to submit a $45 filing fee for the certificate and pay for the inspection.

Anna Mills, president of the Toledo Real Estate Investors Association, called the proposal “far from affordable.” Ms. Mills, who is also a lead abatement contractor, said the required testing would cost several hundred dollars, something she said would be a hardship on low-income residents if owners raise rents to cover the costs.

“I think instead of making their houses safer this will be putting them out of a house,” she said of low-income renters.

The proposal is expected to go before city council at Tuesday’s agenda review session.

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154, or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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