U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Southeast Regional and Georgia Offices and HUD Lead and Healthy Homes leadership recently joined Augusta leaders, public health and local officials in the City of Augusta Commission Chamber for the cityâ€™s first such award of a $3.3 million HUD grant through HUDâ€™s Lead based Paint Hazard Reduction and Healthy Homes Production Grant Programs focused on eradicating lead-based paint in older homes in the city that can adversely affect the health of children and families. The record investment was among 77 such grants that HUD awarded across the country totaling $314 million nationwide.
â€śItâ€™s the first grant of this size and, quite frankly, the only one in the state of Georgia. So, itâ€™s through partnerships like this, with the federal government, state and local governments, being able to deliver and make a difference in the lives of people and children in communities like ours,â€ť said Mayor Hardie Davis, Jr.
â€śWe are committed to improving the lives of all families, especially children by helping create safer and healthier homes," said Shea Johnson, HUD Georgia, Director of Operations. â€śThe state and city should be recognized for your leadership, vision and hard work in making this award a reality for Augusta.â€ť
HUD Division Director, Lead and Healthy Homes Program, Yolanda Brown brought congratulatory remarks recognizing the close connection between health and housing and how the grants will more directly support local efforts to identify and clean up housing related health hazards like lead and mold.
About 65 percent of the grant will go into rehabilitating homes, said Christy Kuriatnyk, director of the childhood lead prevention program for Georgia public health. While the funding will not be restricted to an area of Augusta, the most likely targets are homes in Commission Districts 1 and 2, and areas already under revitalization such as the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods, said Augusta Housing and Community Development Director Hawthorne Welcher Jr.
"Lead can create neurological problems in children that can cause permanent damage," said East Central Health District Director Stephen Goggans.
â€śYouâ€™re talking about decades of impact over their entire lives,â€ť he said. The Georgia Department of Public Health has regional lead inspectors that, once a child tests positive, can try to find the source and eradicate it but does not have the funding to do it on the large scale the grant will allow, said Dr. Chris Rustin, Director of the Health Protection Division for Public Health.
â€śSpecifically, you have most houses pre-1978 that will be in Districts 1 and 2 that will allow us to play off the revitalization work thatâ€™s already going on Laney-Walker and Bethlehem. But not specific to Laney-Walker/Bethlehem,â€ť explained the cityâ€™s Housing and Development Director Hawthorne Welcher.
Welcher said his department has already identified structures to work on and the impact should be seen over the next three to four years.
HUDâ€™s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH) provides funds to state and local governments to develop cost-effective ways to reduce lead-based paint hazards. In addition, the office enforces HUD's lead-based paint regulations, provides public outreach and technical assistance, and conducts technical studies to help protect children and their families from health and safety hazards in the home.