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Cleveland City Council Poised For Vote On Lead Paint Rules

After legislative tweaks Tuesday, a proposal that would require landlords to ensure properties are safe from lead paint poisoning moved one step closer to becoming law in Cleveland.

City Council’s economic development committee approved the lead-safe legislation with several amendments, sending it on for a possible vote from the full council July 24.

“If we’re serious about this issue, if we believe it’s a moral imperative and we know how to fix it, then we have to take steps as a community, as a council, as a city to ensure that our babies and children are not being poisoned by lead,” Councilman Kerry McCormack said.

The legislation would require landlords to obtain certifications every two years proving the properties have passed inspections for lead paint hazards. The law would apply to owners of rental peroperties built before 1978, when a federal ban on lead paint went into effect.

Council amended the bill to exempt landlords who file affidavits showing their properties are unoccupied. Another amendment would add a landlord seat to a proposed Lead-Safe Advisory Board, which would offer the city feedback on its lead program.

Passage now would give the city until March 2021, the date the requirements go into effect, to develop a program to enforce the lead law. All qualifying rental units would have to be certified by March 2023.

Cleveland began conducting lead inspections in certain properties more than a year and a half ago as part of the city’s rental registry program.

The city has trained lead inspectors and administered 1,800 inspections since late 2017, "when previously we were not in the lead inspection business at all," said Building and Housing Director Ayonna Blue Donald.

Dozens of landlords responded to an ideastream and Plain Dealer survey on the lead-safe legislation earlier this month. Some questioned whether the city would manage the program effectively and why the requirements did not apply to owner-occupied homes.

Natoya Walker Minor, the city’s chief of public affairs, told council that the administration was not out to hurt businesses.

"This is not to hurt any business owner. This is not to hurt a landlord," she said. "This is to create a safe home for our children."

Lead-safe rental requirements are similar in principle to health requirements for restaurants, Councilman Blaine Griffin said.

“We think it’s important that you make those investments, because we’re protecting our children and we’re protecting our families,” he said. “It’s the cost of doing business.”

State law requires Cleveland to put up placards at properties where children have been poisoned and owners have failed to fix lead hazards. Health Director Merle Gordon told council that her department had placarded 350 homes and that she expects that number to grow to 500 by the fall.

Cleveland also plans to seek $9.1 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help identify and control lead paint in about 500 Cleveland housing units over five years.

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