Waterloo awarded $2.9 million to protect children and families




Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart announced today that Waterloo Community Development is the recipient of a $2.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This significant funding is part of a continuous effort to keep families and their children safe from lead-based paint and other home health and safety hazards. Waterloo is one of only two cities in Iowa to be awarded funding.

The grant funding announced by HUD Secretary Ben Carson on Tuesday will reduce the number of children with elevated blood lead levels, and protect nearly 120 families living in homes with significant lead and other home health and safety hazards.

“The City of Waterloo is committed to the lead remediation program and Healthy Homes radon intervention to improve our housing stock and the quality of life of all residence in Waterloo,” said Mayor Hart.

Rudy Jones, Waterloo Community Development Director will be the overall Project Director. Anita Merfeld will handle the financial aspects of the program. The daily Program Manager will be Mark Boesen, the Manager of Rehabilitation Services.

Partners with the City in this grant cycle include: Black Hawk County Health Department, Waterloo Fire Rescue, Hazardous Materials Training Center, Landlords of Black Hawk County, Operation Threshold, a Community Action Agency, the YWCA / Hispanic Center, Tri-County Head Start, Peoples Health Clinic, and the Waterloo Housing Authority for assistance with education and outreach programming.

A new partner in this year’s efforts is Waterloo Fire Rescue. The firefighters will assist with in-kind match to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the housing units. While they are at the home, educational information on fire safety will be presented to the household. The Hazard Materials Training Center will also be used as a training site.

Waterloo Community Development will receive $2.5 million for lead control and an additional $400,000 of Healthy Homes Supplemental Funds for radon testing and mitigation from the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes. The City has committed $591,729.80 in matching support of this project including in-kind match for the use of a training facility and installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors by Waterloo Fire Rescue. The match will be Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for lead remediation and personnel costs, and landlord contributions of $240,000 for the rental units. Also, the Black Hawk County Health Department has agreed to match their funding with $99,763.00 of County funds. The local match is about 20 percent of the total grant request. The project total is $3,487, 621.62

Through this project, lead hazard control remediation will occur in 120 housing units throughout the City, with an emphasis in the oldest, low-income, highest minority concentration neighborhoods. Families will be at or below 80 percent of the median income for owner-occupied units. For the rental units remediation, 50 percent will have tenants at or below 50 percent median income and the remaining will have tenants below 80 percent median income. The age and deterioration of the houses and rental units, the low income, and the number of children with elevated blood lead levels within Waterloo is of great concern. If the County has a child with an elevated blood level, and the household is qualified for the program, the housing unit will be addressed immediately. Lead hazard control is expected to cost an average of $15,000 per unit.

The Black Hawk County Health Department will provide certified lead inspection/risk assessors to assess homes in the program for lead paint hazards and conduct the clearance testing before the homeowner or renter is allowed to return to the home. They will also conduct education and outreach activities and perform the blood tests for children.

During this grant cycle the City will concentrate Healthy Homes funding on radon testing and mitigation with the Healthy Homes Supplemental funds. Radon is colorless, odorless, and tasteless and enters homes through cracks and openings, such as unsealed sump pumps, crawl spaces, and concrete cold joints. Since housing units have lower air pressure than surrounding soil, a vacuum effect is created allowing radon to enter the homes even through hairline cracks.

The EPA’s action level for radon is 4 picocuries/liter (pCi/L), and Iowa has the highest percentage of homes in the United States above the EPA’s action level averaging 8 pCi/L. Five out of seven homes in Iowa have radon above this action level. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and is estimated to cause more than 21,000 deaths per year in the nation, and 400 deaths annually in Iowa.

Training and public education activities will improve the City’s long-term ability to make housing units lead safe. Community education activities will include presentations, advertising, public service announcements, mailings, radio talk shows and contacts with Neighborhood Associations.

The City has administered the “WaterLoo Eliminates LeAd HazarDs” Lead Hazard Control Program using 2003, 2007 and 2011 Lead–Based Paint Hazard Control Grant Funds. All benchmarks were met or exceeded during all three grants.

For more information contact Rudy Jones, Waterloo Community Development Director at Rudy.Jones@Waterloo-IA.org or by calling 319-291-4429.