EXCLUSIVE: New executive order in Onondaga County combats lead in homes

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) —  A new executive order from Onondaga County is ramping up the fight against the lead issue in our community. 

The new directive will prevent County tax dollars from being used to support hazardous living conditions. It will also provide another tool to compel homeowners and renters to remediate lead-based paint dangers. 

If you walk down the streets of Onondaga County, most of the housing stock is pre-1978. That’s when a federal ban was placed on lead-based paint. If the issue hasn’t been addressed in the home since then, dangers could still lurk inside the home. 

“We’re an older northeast community, there’s going to be lead in the property. This is going to be very harmful to the public health of children and the key is once we find if we get the situation remedied immediately,” said Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon.

The County is undertaking a program to help those who live in rental housing, receiving housing assistance from the Department of Social Services (DSS). 

The Health Commissioner will provide a lead-free certification process to educate tenants on how to demand a lead-free certification as a condition of any rental agreement.   

DSS will use its rental assistance program to communicate to landlords that tenants will be shown how to demand a lead-free certification. This means the department is authorized to withhold all rental assistance where there are existing violations in a multi-family building, even though the violations do not exist within the tenant’s housing accommodations.   

“What we see is it takes months and months for the landlords to get the lead situations resolved and if we can get it done in a month it is great for the family and the children and the problem is cleared up,” said Sarah Merrick, Onondaga County Commissioner of Social Services – Economic Security. 

This new executive order is for homes subsidized by Onondaga County’s DSS. 

“If you live in a multi-family property and there’s lead in one unit and the property owner receives assistance checks for multiple units, we are now going to hold all the assistance checks until the lead issue is rectified in that one unit,” said McMahon. 

DSS currently provides help to about 12,000 individuals in Onondaga County– part of that includes housing. 

This directive means your tax dollars are not paying for hazardous living conditions caused by lead paint.  

“I think it is important for the public to know that at no point are we paying a landlord to have a tenant stay in a situation that is verified to have lead,” said McMahon. 

The County offers to put the tenant in a new home, but it will legally protect them from eviction if they want to stay in the home that has lead. Lawmakers say this is a small step at the beginning of a long journey to help those living with lead.  

To learn how to protect your home and community, click here.

For more local news, follow Jennifer Sanders on Twitter @JSandersNC9

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