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Burlington Officials Announce New Grant Funding For Continued Lead Remediation

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announces grant for lead program
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announces grant for lead program

Officials in Burlington on Thursday announced that the city has received a federal grant to help remove lead paint in homes across the city.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, staff from Vermont’s federal delegation and officials from the city’s Community and Economic Development Office – or CEDO – announced on Thursday that the Burlington Lead Program has been awarded $2.9 million dollars over three years.  CEDO will receive an additional $400,000 to mitigate other housing health hazards.

Mayor Miro Weinberger stood in an upstairs apartment on North Street that had benefitted from the lead program.   “As a result of this grant 162 homes in Burlington will be improved and made safer over the next three years.  We live in a city that has thousands of older pre-1970 homes that were painted and thus have an enduring on-going threat to human health and the environment that needs to be worked on continuously.”

This is the fifth grant the Burlington Lead program has received from HUD’s Healthy Homes Initiative.  Launched in 2003, the program has removed lead from 584 homes in the Burlington area.   Mayor Weinberger says it’s available to all residents and even his family took advantage of parts of the program.   “My family has had  the Burlington Lead Program out to our house to do testing on our radiators and door frames and window frames to determine whether or not there is a lead hazard there or not. And there was.  The Burlington program helped us identify, at no cost, hazards.”

The North Street apartment where officials gathered is the second that building owner Eric Lafayette has refitted under the program.  “A lot of times with the high rents that you get in Burlington, high purchase price of investment properties, it’s tough to really keep places affordable and keeping them safe at the same time. So getting this grant money is certainly crucial to that.”  

For low income individuals who qualify for the program, CEDO hires a certified contractor and assures testing and cleanup is completed. It also has a rental apartment available if the family cannot stay while work is occurring.  Lafayette is impressed with how much help is available from the city.  “They have people that can translate because a lot of our tenants actually come from different countries. So they are able to talk to them, even though I had a difficult time trying to explain what the program is about and what benefits they would receive.  They were able to bring in translators and help with that transition.  So they did a great job with providing that extra assistance.”

Burlington Lead Program Coordinator Jeff Tanguay notes that there about 9,000 pre-1978 units in Burlington and between 2,000 and 3,000 units in Winooski, built when lead paint was commonly used.  “Most of our housing stock in Burlington was built before 1950.  And a lot of those houses, you know 82 percent of the properties here have potential lead hazards.  If it was built before 1978 chances are, not a hundred percent, but chances are that most of those are going to have some kind of lead based paint hazard present.  We find very few properties that we go and test that have zero lead based paint. And I think out of the hundreds that we’ve tested there’s been less than ten that we’ve found with no lead based paint.  So the chances are if it was built before 1978 here there a high chance for lead based paint.”  

The new grant funding will allow the Community and Economic Development office to perform hazard assessments and remediation on an additional 162 housing units in Burlington and Winooski.