BUFFALO, N.Y. - Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has created what he calls a "a multi-pronged initiative" to address the massive lead problem in the city.
The city is creating the Buffalo Lead Hazard Control Program. It involves cooperation from Erie County, the Buffalo Common Council, Buffalo Public Schools, and a host of non profit agencies.
"The plan includes legislation, collaboration, education, and remediation," Brown said.
The action comes after extensive reporting by Two On Your Side and our partners at Investigative Post, about the high number of children in Buffalo with elevated lead levels, linked to lead-based paint in older homes.
Buffalo has one of the oldest housing stocks in the country, contributing to the problem.
Under the terms of the new plan, Erie County will remain the lead agency when dealing with lead in Buffalo.
The control program features an 11 point plan.
All the steps along with the timing for implementation are listed below:
- $250,000 will be provided annually for lead issues through raising the Rental Registration Fee. Additionally $205,000 in Community Development Block Grants will be provided. Rental Registration bills mailed in January 2017, fees in hand by April 1, 2017, CDBG funds are available by July 1, 2016
- Funds will be provided in partnership with CDBG, HOME, Rental Registration, GHHI, CFGB, Erie County and the New York State Attorney General’s office to remediate at least 150 units annually. Mid-September 2016.
- Strengthen City Charter, City Code and Rental Registry to require landlord lead certification. Mid-July 2016.
- Certificates of occupancy will not be granted to dwellings with lead-based paint hazards. Mid-July 2016.
- Property managers will be required to be lead-safe certified. Mid-July 2016.
- UNYSE will do lead testing upon referral from city building inspectors. Immediately available.
- BNET will conduct concentrated code enforcement in zip codes with the highest percentage of lead paint hazards (14211, 14213, 14215). June 1, 2016.
- 311 will have a dedicated “lead line” take calls about lead paint concerns from city residents. July 1, 2016.
- Lead education will be provided on city website, in user fee bills, during clean sweeps, translated in various languages and on public access television and city building permit applications. Rolling out across various platforms starting July 1, 2016.
- Collaboration will be increased with Erie County, the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo and Buffalo Public Schools. Immediately.
- Buffalo MBE, WBE, Section 3 and small businesses will be trained to become lead certified. Fall 2016 or earlier based course offering availability.
While still insisting the detection and abatement of lead, and services for anyone affected by it are still largely the responsibility of Erie County and its health department, Browns administration now believes there are several proactive steps city can take, to reduce the chances of exposure to lead in the first place.
Some of the keys to the new lead hazard control program include lead-focused amendments to City’s Rental Registry Law, a Lead Education Awareness Program and a lead testing and remediation partnerships.
Some amendments to the City Charter, City Code and the City’s Rental Registry Law will require all landlords to certify they are aware of their property’s lead levels and agree to follow federal guidelines for renovation and repair.
In its most basic terms, the new laws would tie the certificate of occupancy that landlords need to renew every three years for rental units, to successfully passing a lead inspection.
"Our guys would be able to go in and if they see some type of paint chipping or peeling , or if they see dust or some sort of trigger, this would be cause for testing," said Lou Petrucci, a senior city housing inspector. If a lead hazard is detected, according to Petrucci, "We would not issue a new Certificate of Occupancy or renew the rental registration certificate and therefore they can not legally occupy the apartments."
Mayor Brown remarked that the laws, if passed by the Common Council, would be applicable to one and two family rental housing, which is a change as well.
Landlords will also be required to disclose lead conditions to their tenants (something already required by federal law).
All property managers in Buffalo will also be required to obtain Federal Remediation Lead Safe Certifications.
Certificates of Occupancy will also be denied in the city if there are any lead-based paint hazards present as well.