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DCHA Fails to Remedy Lead-Based Paint Hazards in Public Housing, Endangering Lives

A report from the Office of the D.C. Auditor alleged that the D.C. Housing Authority failed to effectively fix lead-based paint hazards in public housing units by the government-mandated deadline. This comes after millions of dollars in district funds were spent on disruptive maintenance that forced many families to relocate while their residences were worked on, according to DCist.

The D.C. Auditor report found that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 30-day deadline for fixing lead-based paint hazards was missed by the DCHA in 48% of the cases examined. As for households with children under 6 years old, it took more than 90 days for the DCHA to finish maintenance 77% of the time. In addition, per the report, removing these hazards regularly took the DCHA over a year to complete, placing the children of tenants or renters in DC Housing Authority properties at risk.

The Details of the D.C. Auditor Report

According to DCist, in preparing the report, the D.C. Auditor reviewed 61 of the DCHA’s risk assessment reports that identified the location of lead-based paint, as well as examined the agency’s lead-abatement actions from October 2017 to May 2019. The D.C. Auditor alleged that the DCHA did not carry through with routine lead-based paint maintenance and, ergo, is in violation of both local and federal housing laws.

In response, Tyrone Garrett, DCHA executive director, stated in a rebuttal that the DCHA did what it could with the resources it was given.

Allocated Budget and Time: Hazards Reportedly Remain in Some Units

DCist reported that Garrett has been known to champion the DCHA since he took it over in 2017. The D.C. Auditor report is partially so shocking because it comes after Garrett’s 2019 estimate that the DCHA would need almost $20 million to remedy lead-based paint hazards, not including the almost $9 million required to help relocate families to different buildings while this work is carried out. More than $10 million has already been spent on these efforts, and the report alleged that 19% of the cases examined showed that only a portion of the hazards were remedied.

Furthermore, the report claimed that the DCHA’s handling of these hazards in all units known by the agency to have children under the age of 6, which Garrett announced to have been properly finished in February 2019, was either improperly documented or simply took way too long. Per the report, 32% of all cases took an average of 408 days to fix, which is way past the outlined 30-day deadline.

Lead-Based Paint Is Severely Dangerous to Everyone, Especially Children

Washington, D.C. is an old city, with no less than 96% of its public housing complexes having been built before 1978, the year that lead-based paint was federally banned due to its health risks. It is likely that most of these buildings because they are old still contain lead, as the paint was often used because of its durability and fast-drying quality.

Thus, the DCHA’s slow turnaround time is unacceptable because of the hazards that lead-based paint continues to pose to people of all ages — and particularly children. Exposure to lead, even in minute amounts, can have a significantly harmful impact on children, including but not limited to:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Brain damage
  • Neurological conditions
  • Organ failure
  • Coma
  • Death

An Issue of Equity and Public Health

As reported in the media the DC Housing Authority has placed many children in danger by not following their own rules and guidelines. This is an affront to both public health and housing equity in the District of Columbia. At Ashccraft & Gerel we believe that children in public housing either through the Choice Housing Voucher Program or living in a Dc Housing Authority owned apartment should be safe from lead poisoning. Ashcraft & Gerel has fought for families and children who have been lead poisoned in the District of Columbia and have been part of the DC Housing Authority programs, The law in DC permits children to file a claim for negligence in certain situations until they reach the age of 21. If you are seeking a lawyer who knows the lead laws in the District of Columbia we want to help.

Contact Ashcraft & Gerel online to connect with an award-winning lawyer passionate about helping D.C. community members.

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