Housing grants to help Lewiston clean more than lead

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LEWISTON — A renewed set of federal grants could do a lot more than help reduce lead in downtown housing units, city officials said Tuesday.

“We’ll be doing lead, we’ll be doing weatherization, we may be providing some block grant rehabilitation loan so that the entire house, the entire property, is looked at as a whole, not just the point of view of lead or energy,” City Administrator Ed Barrett said. “That, to me, is the big change in our thinking.”

On Tuesday, Barrett joined other government officials and representatives from Pine Tree Legal, Healthy Androscoggin and St. Mary’s B-Street Health Clinic to discuss plans for $3.3 million in federal grants.

Lewiston received $2.99 million in federal Housing and Urban Development grants for a Lead-based Paint Hazard Control Program. That will help fund a comprehensive lead education and abatement program, providing lead assessments for 225 downtown homes, interventions in 160 dwelling units and 50 educational and outreach events in the community.

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Another $400,000 in Healthy Homes Initiative funding will target lead cleaning.

Lewiston’s downtown has housing stock problems, Barrett said. It’s some of the oldest housing stock in the state and much of it has been poorly maintained.

“Our children have lead poisoning at three times the rate of the rest of the state as a whole, and 10 percent of our kids suffer from asthma — and most of that is due to problems in the home,” Barrett said.

Mayor Robert Macdonald said the city has used previous grants to remove lead hazards.

“But a lot of the work still remains,” Macdonald said.

Barrett said the city began working with state and local housing and health agencies in June to create the Green Housing Partnership. That coalition group applied for the grants.

“We are pooling all of our resources, be they Community Development Block Grant funds, foundation support, energy efficiency funding or weatherization funding, so when we go into a home, we are doing it comprehensively,” Barrett said.

Lincoln Jeffers, the city’s director of economic and community development, said downtown landlords could begin applying for the city money in January.

staylor@sunjournal.com

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