The rental property owners of Philadelphia see a new City Council lead paint bill as the perfect starting point for protecting children from lead poisoning.
HAPCO is working with Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown to improve Bill No. 180937, by making sure children age 6 and under living in at-risk properties are tested twice by a physician for lead exposure before they reach the age of 30 months.
The new lead Bill No. 180936 also expands testing to include all rental properties, not just those in which children live. HAPCO’s more than 2500 members have found that that requirement may mean more than $3000 in repairs per unit. This is in addition to the thousands of dollars rental property owners already spend, deep-cleaning units between tenants. It is a cost that leaves rental property owners little choice but to pass it along to the tenant in the form of higher rent. HAPCO says another expense like this makes owning rental property too expensive. When combined with other recent City-mandated costs, it’s forcing landlords out of the low-to-moderate rental market. And that runs counter to HAPCO’s mission statement, to preserve low and moderate rental housing stock in Philadelphia.
HAPCO is also concerned about lead contamination in owner-occupied dwellings in Philadelphia, where many children live, but are not necessarily subject to any lead poisoning tests. It’s conceivable lead level testing in those residences could reveal an even bigger problem than what’s found in rental units where children may, or may not, live. Greensboro, NC and Toledo, OH have enacted ordinances requiring testing, inspection and repairs for all residential properties.
HAPCO SEES POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS
The rental property owners of Philadelphia go to great lengths to educate membership and ensure compliance with existing City lead remediation certification.
And HAPCO sees several potential ways to help fund lead paint testing and remediation.
Rather than compel rental property owners to bear 100 percent of the testing and cleanup costs, HAPCO has found precedent in other municipalities for a 50-cent-a-gallon surcharge on paint. Those monies have been used to help offset lead paint testing and remediation, in the form of grants issued to rental and owner-occupied families, where a child has tested positive for lead poisoning. The measure also kept landlords from having to raise rents.
The State of California has also prevailed in litigation against the Sherman Williams paint company to pay more than $400 million for the cleanup of contamination from lead paint that the company advertised as “safe” for years.
Similar litigation has been filed jointly in our region by Lehigh, Delaware and Montgomery counties. HAPCO sees the City of Philadelphia as a logical party to that suit, given Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s recent acknowledgment of lead contamination in City schools. The Governor has committed $100 million to that clean-up effort.
HAPCO SEES BETTER ENFORCEMENT OF EXISTING LAWS AS KEY
The rental property owners of Philadelphia feel perhaps the simplest way to attain higher certification compliance is to fund enhanced enforcement of lead contamination laws already on the books. The proposed paint surcharge could help fund that effort as well.
HAPCO sees these solutions as part of our founding principle, to make sure there is affordable rental housing for all tenants.