Debate Continues Before Cleveland's Next Move On Lead Remediation

Cleveland City Council's Health and Human Services Committee hears from realtors and activists on lead remediation plans.
Cleveland City Council hears from local realtors on May 20, asking for more time to put in place lead inspections. [Matt Richmond / ideastream]
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A list of 33 recommendations for dealing with Cleveland’s ongoing lead crisis, presented to the city council Monday by experts and activists, did not include a way to pay for inspections and fixes to lead contaminated housing.

Councilman Blaine Griffin, chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, hinted the funding could come from a new tax or foundation support or another source.

“Everything is on the table,” Griffin said. “I just do want to make sure — sometimes we have to hold some of the people that tore it up to make them fix it up too. There’s a resource committee that’s really going to look at every source that we can.”

Griffin didn’t elaborate on whether the people who “tore it up” are paint companies or certain landlords or someone else. The recommendations from council’s lead safe coalition were released at the end of April, but legislation has yet to be introduced to council.

Local realtors and an advocacy group known as CLASH — Cleveland Lead Advocates for Safe Housing — declined to fully support the coalition's recommendations.

The Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition began meeting in February and released 33 recommendations. The key measure is a lead inspection of every rental property in Cleveland and a certificate when that property is found to be lead-safe. 

The proposals give landlords a one-year ramp-up, including time for training a workforce that can conduct lead assessments and others to perform cleanup. Then there would be 2 years to put the process in place and conduct the inspections.

But the Akron-Cleveland Association of Realtors wants more time. Among their recommendations was a feasibility study before inspections begin.

“It's just a ridiculous period of time,”  Seth Task, a realtor and former president of ACAR told council. “There has to be a correct process, a study done, so that we're not sitting here with another 10,000 houses in Cleveland that are vacant because owners are just letting them go.” 

Councilmembers, including Kerry McCormack, were not publicly supportive of that idea.

 “The concern is when I hear before we take any action we have to figure out all the answers to all these questions and run a study, quite frankly, that sounds like stalling to me,” McCorkmack said. “There are babies and children that are being poisoned by lead. A feasibility study in an insult. Whether this is feasible is not a question in my mind.”

Task also raised objections about the proposal to add 'source of income' to the list of protected characteristics in the city's fair housing law. That would mean landlords would have to accept tenants who use Housing Choice Vouchers, commonly referred to as Section 8. That, said Task, should be dealt with in separate legislation.

The main objection from CLASH is the exclusion of daycares from lead inspection requirements. The group also wants criminal penalties in addition to civil ones for landlords who fail to comply.

Cleveland hosts a Lead Safe Housing Summit in June and the city council plans to pass legislation sometime after that, according to Council President Kevin Kelley.

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