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Lynn gets $9.3 million to get the lead out

LYNN — More than 400 homes will be deleaded thanks to a $9.3 million grant from the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), the largest grant of its kind the city has received.

Administered by the Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development (LHAND), the Lead Abatement Program was created to make homes safer for low-income families.

From 2009 through 2018, Lynn received $9.1 million in HUD monies to make more than 600 homes safe. The all-in cost to delead one home can reach as much as $15,000, say experts. 

“This is a huge amount of money obviously for the city and it’s incredibly important to continue the work to delead homes,” said U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who noted his office lobbied HUD to secure the grant. “There is ample evidence about what a difference lead abatement makes in kids’ lives.”

From 2012 through 2017, the most recent data available from the Massachusetts Public Health Department, there were 105 cases of Lynn children with elevated levels of lead in their blood. Only Boston, Brockton, New Bedford, and Springfield have more. 

Jeff Weeden, LHAND’s planning and development manager, acknowledged Lynn is a high risk of lead community. While the agency is making progress, he estimates it will cost more than $450 million to remove lead from all of the city dwellings.  But he said HUD has been expanding the lead abatement program and he expects the money to keep coming. 

One of the reasons for the lead problem is 87 percent of the 37,000 homes built in Lynn were constructed before 1978 when lead paint was outlawed. That leaves more than 32,000 homes to be deleaded.      

Lead poisoning is the premier environmental health threat to children, according to state data. The primary source of childhood lead poisoning in Massachusetts is from exposure to lead paint and dust in older homes.

This year, HUD added a competitive category for cities like Lynn that have “high impact neighborhoods,” which increased grant funds and extended it for two more years. The designation includes high numbers of pre-1940 housing, low-income families, and high rates of young children with elevated blood lead levels. These areas extend from the Pine Hill neighborhood, through the Highlands and to the waterfront.

“This particular application was much more competitive and relied heavily on past performance and staff experience,” Charles Gaeta, LHAND’s executive director said in a statement. “I cannot stress enough, the efforts and success of our team. It is with their hard work day in and day out, for the last 10 years, that has led to outpacing our benchmarks and receiving a high performing grant status. We are grateful for this opportunity, as it leads to a healthier and safer affordable housing stock for Lynn’s most vulnerable residents.”

Mayor Thomas M. McGee praised LHAND’s efforts.

“The Lynn Housing Authority’s work through the lead reduction program has been extremely effective at reducing lead poisoning exposure and contributing to positive health outcomes for the children of Lynn,” he said in a statement.

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