Statement as issued Monday by the city:
Fort Wayne, Ind. – With help from a nearly $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the City of Fort Wayne is working with local partner agencies to create healthier homes by improving the city’s rental housing stock. The grant was awarded as part of HUD’s Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control Program, which aims to increase and preserve the amount of safe, decent and affordable rental housing, nationwide.
“Since before I was elected mayor, I’ve always had a commitment to strengthening neighborhoods – which are the heart of our community,” Mayor Tom Henry said. “This program enables us to improve and expand our housing stock, to make sure that our city has safe, affordable and healthy homes for all of our residents.”
The $2,478,240 in funding was given to the city’s Office of Housing & Neighborhood Services (OHNS), which works to rid city homes of lead-based paint hazards and other code deficiencies. The City is one of only 43 municipalities and states to receive a portion of the $110.8 million that HUD awarded this month. HUD officials were particularly impressed that OHNS brought several agencies together to form the Fort Wayne/ Allen County Healthy Homes Consortium, which worked together to apply for the grant. The agencies involved include the Fort Wayne Housing Authority, CANI, the Fort Wayne/Allen County Department of Health and the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation.
All 43 grant recipients will use the funding, over a three-year period, to help remove the lead-based paint hazard that is found in homes built prior to 1978. However, the City of Fort Wayne is taking the initiative one step further. The City will work to make Fort Wayne neighborhoods healthier by expanding rental housing options in what the Fort Wayne Housing Authority refers to “opportunity neighborhoods,” which are census tracks that have less than 20 percent poverty and have access to the bus line, fresh food and jobs.
The City is seeking realtors to help them find owners of vacant rental housing to apply for low interest rate loans that would enable them to improve their properties by removing lead-based paint, making the homes energy efficient and addressing any code-related deficiencies in rental housing stock. City officials are working with the Apartment Association of Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana and the Upstate Alliance of Realtors, as private sectors partners in the Healthy Homes program.
The City expects to soon engage several local, regional and national lenders to expand the pool of resources available to undertake rental rehab initiatives.
The program will not only offer free Lead Risk Assessments to 875 landlords who are either participants or seeking to participate in the Fort Wayne Housing Authority’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, but will also include the creation of Fort Wayne’s first Healthy Neighborhoods project, which will be located in Southeast Fort Wayne. The citywide program will also include identifying 780 units that will receive lead remediation and cleanup, holding at least 36 outreach or educational events and providing skills to low-income residents so that they can be empowered to become lead abatement contractors.
Lead-contaminated dust is the primary cause of lead exposure and can lead to a variety of health problems in young children, including reduced IQ, learning disabilities, developmental delays and organ damage.
“With these grant awards, HUD makes it clear that providing healthy and safe homes for families and children is a priority,” said John Hall, Field Office Director at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Indianapolis office. “HUD is committed to protecting children from these hazards, as part our efforts to help make the nation’s housing healthy, safe and affordable.”