U.S. Sen. Susan Collins chats with Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant in October when she visited Biddeford to announce the city had been awarded about $3 million in funds to address laid paint issues in multi-family dwellings. Biddeford officials said the program has now begun. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — The City of Biddeford has announced the launch of its Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program, an initiative to achieve lead-safe homes in the city.

Through the program, multi-unit property owners can receive a no-interest loan of up to $10,000 per unit for lead remediation work, city officials said in a prepared statement. “Eligible properties must be located in Biddeford’s downtown area, be built before 1978, and have lead-based paint in deteriorated condition,” according to the statement.

The program is funded by U.S. Department of Housing  and Urban Development’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes, and is offered by the City of Biddeford in partnership with Community Concepts and Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition.

Funding priority will be given to: first, buildings under a Lead Abatement Order; second, buildings occupied by families with child with an elevated blood lead level, a child under age 6, or a pregnant woman; and third, to all other multi-unit building.

A 10 percent owner contribution per unit is required, 25 percent is required for buildings under a lead abatement order.

The loan will be 100 percent forgiven after three years if the property is available to low- or moderate-income families, not sold or refinanced during the loan period, and remains lead safe and code compliant. A maximum of 10 units (or $100,000) can be financed per application.

Multi-unit property owners should visit: www.biddefordmaine.org/leadprogram to learn more about available assistance and program requirements.

Exposure to lead, especially in children, can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, slow growth and development, and result in learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech issues, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure to lead can put a pregnant woman at risk for miscarriage, according to the CDC.

Last fall, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced Biddeford was to be awarded $2.9 million in grants to address 135 housing units through the Lead Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program, and nearly $300,000 in Healthy Homes Supplemental Funding to assess conditions in 130 housing units.

“The goal is to eliminate and reduce lead hazards and make sure more Maine families are living in safe, healthy homes,” Collins said at an Oct. 18 announcement of the grant awards.

Maine’s housing stock is some of the oldest in the nation, Collins said. In Maine, 57 percent of the housing stock was built before 1978, the year lead-based paint was banned, she said.

“Maine (homes) have the highest level of lead paint in the United States,” Collins said.

In September, the U.S. Appropriations Committee advanced Collins’ fiscal year 2020 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding bill, which included $290 million to combat lead hazards nationwide, $11 million more than last year’s level.

When the award was announced, Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant said that the age and condition of the city’s housing stock has been a concern for years. After a fatal fire a few years ago, the city began inspections, he said, and noted that out of 690 housing checks, only about 35 met the basic standards of life, health and safety.

The city will work with a host of partners to make Biddeford homes safer, Casavant said at the announcement. The $298,600 Healthy Homes grant will leverage about $200,000 in weatherization, home repair and aging in place funding by York County Community Action Corporation and Biddeford Housing Authority, he said.

Among a lengthy list of partners is the Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition at the University of New England, which will provide education and outreach and Community Concepts, whom Casavant described as the program delivery partner.

The grant is the largest award the city has ever received, Casavant said in October.

 

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