CLEVELAND — Joe Libretti and Ben Rosolowski are trained northeast Ohio lead risk assessors, and Cleveland landlords, who believe changes in the city lead safe ordinance are needed in 2022.
Both told News 5, the current ordinance does nothing to address lead paint child poisoning issues at thousands of owner-occupied homes across the city and only centers on more than 90,000 city rental units in its effort get the homes lead safe compliant.
Libretti and Rosolowski said the current ordinance requires re-inspection of all compliant rental units every two years and they both believe that's an unfair burden on landlords who may have to pay more than $1,000 to get ready for reinspection.
"So we’re essentially ignoring a big half of the problem," Libretti said. "Children who live in owner occupied houses do get lead poisoning. The current reinspection requirement in the ordinance, it's over-broad and it treats every house the same. I think landlords should be incentivized to make lead safe improvements—if a landlord puts in all vinyl windows, if a landlord replaces an old painted porch. The frequency of the inspections should be extended to every six years or determined on a case-by-case basis.”
“I would just like some input in improving the law for children," Rosolowski said. “What good does it do to test a rental home with a 40-year-old tenant that lives in it who doesn’t have any children and people aren’t there. When next door, there’s five homes with children living in it that are owner-occupied with children in it and we aren’t testing those.”
Rosolowski and Libretti are hoping the grant application requirements in the ordinance will be re-assessed and relaxed in 2022, so that more Cleveland landlords will qualify for financial assistance in addressing their effort to obtain lead certification. Libretti said, in too many cases landlords are only qualifying for the $500 incentive grant, which doesn't go to far in addressing lead paint issues.
“But as far as doing any lead remediation or installing some vinyl windows. It’s based on income, and unfortunately those with lower incomes are not property owners," Libretti said. “We believe we can make a law that better protect children without the negative consequences for landlords and tenants.”
Ward 6 Cleveland councilman and in-coming council President Blaine Griffin told News 5 the lead safe ordinance is set to be re-assessed every year, and said landlords will be part of that re-assessment process in the first quarter of 2022.
“Every year we’ll actually re-examine the ordinance in order to see if there are is any unintended consequences," Griffin said. “Landlords, we’re going to work with them because these landlords care about Cleveland just like we do. But at the end of the day we had to do something about lead poisoning in our city. Everything is on the table, we’re not here trying to be punitive we just want a lead safe Cleveland. When it comes to owner-occupied homes, there are some loose regulations at the federal level that we would encourage the federal government to look at in order to try and be sure that they protecting children in owner occupied residences.”
Griffin said the program has already reduced lead poisoning in children, but said the plan has a long way to go.
A spokesperson for Cleveland Mayor-elect Justin Bibb responded to our story with the following statement:
“The mayor-elect was vocal about his plans to address lead poisoning throughout the campaign and our position has not changed on what needs to happen.
We’re focused on the transition right now and will be making more announcements about that process in the coming weeks.”
According to city records, the lead safe program is off to relatively slow start with fewer than 7,000 Cleveland rental units applying for lead safe certification in the first several months of the initiative.
Meanwhile, CHN Housing Partners announced a new low interest loan program to obtain lead safe certification for Cleveland owner-occupied homes built before 1978.
CLICK HERE for more information. You can also call CHN hotline at 1-844-614-LEAD (5323).