Within its six-state region, Utah was the lone recipient of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant to target lead and other health hazards in low-income housing.
Salt Lake County Housing Manager Randy Jepperson, who applied for the grant, said he shouted out in jubilation Thursday when he received the call from Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the national Green and Healthy Homes Initiative, regarding Utah’s $2.5 million award.
"We went up against some of the biggest cities and administrations across the country," Jepperson said. "I’ve worked in this business 20-some years, and I’ve never had a top official from HUD call me with the good news."
A HUD statement said that a total of $98.3 million was awarded to 38 projects across the United States, aimed at cleaning up lead-based paint and other health hazards in 6,373 high-risk homes.
The remaining $200,000 in Healthy Homes Initiative funding will be used to conduct healthy-home assessments in an additional 250 units.
Last November, Salt Lake County teamed with several medical and housing providers and nonprofits to sign on to the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative compact, and is now one of 17 such sites nationwide.
"When we formed that coalition, it immediately helped us in applying for these funds," Jepperson said, describing one Magna couple whose older home exacerbated their health problems, including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
After having their home’s carpet, bathroom and ventilation system replaced, Jepperson said that the woman was finally able to breathe in her own home.
Such efforts save $10 in health care costs for every $1 spent on home upgrades, he added.
Salt Lake County gained points by having a vision and collaborative network in place, said HUD Deputy Regional Administrator Daniel Gomez.
"It’s very nice to have Utah in our region, and it’s a testament to your organization in general," Gomez said of Salt Lake County’s award. "The competition was pretty stiff."
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, pre-1950s housing stock carries the greatest risk for lead-based paint. Lead poisoning in children is linked to hyperactivity, delayed growth, hearing loss and learning and reading difficulties. The residential use of lead-based paint in the United States was banned in 1978.
"Childhood lead poisoning is completely preventable, and that’s exactly what these funds are designed to do," HUD Deputy Secretary Maurice Jones said in a recent statement. "The communities receiving these grants are helping their children grow up brighter, safer and healthier."
Utah’s grant dollars will be used over the next 42 months, Jepperson said.
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