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CWRU creates the first dashboard showing how Cleveland’s Lead Safe Initiative is working by numbers

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Posted at 6:38 AM, Dec 30, 2021

CLEVELAND — Cleveland’s City Council approved the Lead Safe Cleveland Ordinance in 2019. It requires all landlords in the city to have their rental properties certified as lead-safe by 2023. Under the ordinance, the lead-safe program will be rolled out by zip code through December 2022.

A team of researchers at Case Western Reserve University were tasked with monitoring Lead-Safe Cleveland’s progress from the start and now that data is available to landlords, families, renters and anyone else who may want to see it with the interactive dashboard.

Rob Fischer is an associate professor at CWRU and co-director of the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development at the university’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

He said 90% of Cleveland’s housing stock is pre-1978 and that makes Cleveland ground zero for lead paint poisoning in Ohio.

“If you want to do something about lead poisoning in children in Ohio, it starts right here," he said.

The dashboard’s data is a collaborative effort with the CWRU, the city, and the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition.

“The dashboard is a fruition of a lot of the thinking around how best to understand what the current state of affairs is, in regards to lead poisoning and then to track how the rollout of the ordinance,” he said. “What’s happening now? What's happened over this year as the coalition and the city have rolled out their efforts?”

It breakdowns the zones in which the ordinance has rolled out and shows baseline conditions in the city’s rental housing, baseline numbers from 2017 that show in what neighborhoods and how many children have elevated levels of lead in their blood, and how many lead-safe certificates have been obtained, so far.

“It reflects a belief system about, not just using data to make good decisions, but sharing data so that we can all hold each other accountable,” he said. “About half the city has been subject to the ordinance so far, meaning they had to get a lead safe certification and the follow through rate, so far, is actually fairly low.”

According to the data, as of Sept 23., there are 614 rental properties that have achieved the certificate.

Joe Libretti is a Cleveland landlord and a state lead risk assessor. He said he’d like to see the ordinance be changed in the upcoming new year.

“How do we know it’s the rental houses how do we really know that?” he asked.

He said he is in support of open and transparent data but believes that every house children live in, that was built before 1978, should be subject to inspection and not just rental properties.

“These inspections are very expensive, they’re burdensome on the landlord and the tenants, a lot of them are really unnecessary,” he said.

He hopes landlords will be able to express their concerns to the new mayor-elect Justin Bibb and Cleveland leaders.

I think we have a lot to contribute to work on solving this problem,” he said.

Fischer hopes the data will empower more landlords to apply for the certificate.

“We need more energy to get this to happen. We need families to choose lead-safe housing, seek it and choose it, so that it shows up as a market force for those that have rental properties,” he said. “We really need to make rental properties, rental spaces as a commodity that we need to make sure it's safe for users and we need landlords as partners to commit to that.”

RELATED: Cleveland lead inspector training vital in slowing child lead poisoning