James Larson

The Elm City has received $5.6 million in federal funds for lead hazard reduction and healthy home assessments, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Monday.

New Haven’s funds consist of two three-year grants, one worth $5 million from HUD’s Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Program, and one worth $600,000 of Healthy Homes Supplemental funding. The city will use its grant money to address lead hazards in 260 housing units for low-income families with children, the federal agency said in a press release. The city will also perform healthy homes assessments for 50 units. HUD spokeswoman Rhonda Siciliano said that these assessments involve evaluating homes for other environmental hazards, like mold. The federal funding comes amidst ongoing controversy about New Haven’s lead policy at a city level.

New Haven was not awarded a federal grant in 2018 because it was underspending previous grant dollars from 2015, Siciliano said. Municipalities are required to reach 75 percent of their target number of lead-safe housing units before applying for a new grant — New Haven had reached only 54 percent of its 200-unit goal. But after working with HUD staff, Siciliano said, the city was able to reach and exceed its target, remediating 210 home units. The city was also able to receive an extension on the 2015 grant, which is set to expire next month.

Siciliano could not comment on why New Haven had been underspending its federal funds, but said that cities sometimes have staffing issues or need additional time to get their programs up and running.

“I can’t say it’s common,” she said of underspending a HUD grant. “But it does happen.”

In mid-September, the Board of Alders voted to approve five new lead inspector positions for a total of eight, and interim health director Roslyn Hamilton told the News about a week ago that the health department was in the process of interviewing lead inspector candidates. The positions were created in the wake of a still-ongoing class-action lawsuit filed this summer alleging the city had relaxed its lead standards. And though the board approved the positions, critics, including Ward 7 Alder Abby Roth ’90 LAW ’94 and Ward 21 Alder Steve Winter ’11, have argued that the city’s efforts at lead inspection and abatement had faltered not due to inspectors’ workloads but because of procedural issues within the health department.

In a fiscal impact statement submitted to the Board of Alders in July and published by the New Haven Independent, the health department said that of the $5 million the city anticipated receiving for lead hazard reduction, $1.1 million would go to personnel, $1.85 million to family relocation, $1.75 million to grants or loans and $300,000 to “Other (Contractual Yale).” Hamilton could not be reached Wednesday for further comment.

The federal grants are not awarded in lump sums, Siciliano said. Instead, the city will submit receipts for lead hazard reduction work as it occurs, which HUD will approve.

New Haven is one of 77 state and local governments or government agencies to be awarded the HUD funding.

Talia Soglin | talia.soglin@yale.edu