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SHARON Lead-paint rules reduce home renewal program



Published: Sun, January 6, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The maximum housing rehabilitation assistance will be cut by two-thirds.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

SHARON, Pa. -- The implementation of federal lead-based paint control regulations has prompted the city to sharply reduce the scope of its housing rehabilitation program.

The city uses federal Community Development Block Grant funds to provide grants and loans for low- and moderate-income homeowners to fix up their properties. A single person earning up to $21,950 a year is eligible, and that amount increases by about $3,000 for each additional household member.

Must comply: Using federal money means the city must comply with the lead-based paint regulations put into place by the U.S. Department of Housing & amp; Urban Development in 1998, said Rosette Fisher, deputy director of the Sharon Community Development Department.

The city got three time extensions from HUD to come up with a lead-based paint program, but the last one expires Thursday and the federal agency won't grant any more, Fisher said.

The federal regulation stipulates that any housing rehabilitation work costing more than $5,000 must include lead-based paint abatement work, if lead-based paint is present in the house.

Most have it: Most homes built before 1975 have lead-based paint and nearly all of Sharon's houses were built before then, Fisher said.

Sharon has been providing a combination of grants and loans totaling as much as $15,000 for individual housing rehabilitation projects.

With an annual budget of about $300,000, the program has been able to rehabilitate about 40 homes a year, Fisher said.

However, lead-based paint abatement can be very expensive, requiring special training for workers and disposal of materials, and adding that component to the housing rehabilitation program could easily boost the cost to $30,000 or more per house, she said.

Further, if the lead-based paint abatement takes more than five days, the city would have to pick up the tab of putting the residents in temporary housing, she said.

That would reduce the number of homes being rehabilitated each year to about a dozen, Fisher said.

Rather than spend all of its money on a few homes, the city has opted to reduce the scope of its program, she said, explaining that Sharon will limit its assistance to a maximum of $5,000 per project.

Loan offer: That money will be available in the form of an interest-free loan that can be paid back over 20 years.

Under the old program, the city required that any house receiving rehabilitation assistance have a complete inspection and be brought up to all building and safety codes followed by Sharon.

That won't be required under the new program, Fisher said.

Instead, the $5,000 will probably be just enough to cover basic housing emergencies such as furnace replacements and maybe roof replacements, she said.

Hot water heaters, waterlines, electrical work and miscellaneous repairs to eliminate emergency dangerous or unhealthful situations will also be eligible.

New windows and siding were popular under the old program but probably won't be available in the new one, Fisher said.

The city can't escape the lead-based paint regulations entirely, however.

Fisher said HUD will still require Sharon to do a lead-based paint analysis of every house in its program and will still require abatement work to be done in the specific areas where rehabilitation work is being done.

Deferred loan: To help meet that cost, the program will offer the homeowner a "deferred" loan of up to $10,000 that will be forgiven at the rate of 20 percent per year as long as the homeowner still lives in the structure. That money must be used for correcting lead-based paint problems only, she said.

The catch is that any homeowner whose house is in need of lead-based paint abatement must take the deferred loan to fix that problem to get the $5,000 rehabilitation loan, Fisher said.

Sharon's program has rehabilitated 600 houses in its 20 years and has a waiting list of about 20 homes.

Those on the waiting list have indicated they are still interested in the assistance, despite the reduction in scope, Fisher said.

New homes: The city is also shifting some of its CDBG funds away from housing rehabilitation and into home construction this year, she said.

The CDBG budget showed $140,000 earmarked for the construction of two new homes on city-owned lots, making them available only to low- and moderate-income buyers.

Sharon will have to form a partnership with a local housing assistance agency as well as set up a mortgage program through a local bank before the home-building effort is ready to go, Fisher said.




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