CHICAGO (AP) - (4/8/17) - Taxpayers are still paying landlords as dozens of children are being poisoned by brain-damaging lead while living in homes and apartments declared safe by the Chicago Housing Authority.
Federal law requires the CHA to inspect subsidized homes before families move in and at least once a year afterward. But a newspaper analysis showed that for the past seven years, at least one child has been diagnosed with lead poisoning in 187 homes the housing authority approved for occupancy, the Chicago Tribune (http://trib.in/2oaFvUy) reported.
The analysis found that the CHA paid the landlords of the hazardous homes over $5.6 million in federal rent subsidies, with nearly $1 million of that delivered to landlords who were facing housing code violations or lawsuits regarding deteriorating lead-based paint.
Young kids remain at risk because the housing inspectors only check visually for cracked and peeling lead-based paint, instead of confirming hazards with dust swabs or hand-held scanners. The CHA does not consider lead paint a "life-threatening" hazard that landlords must immediately fix in order to collect taxpayer subsidies through the Section 8 voucher program.
The majority of subsidized rentals are in low-income, predominantly African-American neighborhoods on the West and South sides of the city. Harvard University sociologist studying the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side calls lead paint a "pathway through which racial inequality literally gets into your body."
CHA officials have been saying that they are working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on a new "proactive approach" to the inspections. But the agency's renewed guidelines for the voucher program in February showed no changes to its inspection procedures.
"By failing to do anything about the lead, they are making crippled children who are going to grow up to be crippled adults," said Tolanda McMullen, the mother of a child who was poisoned while living in a home approved by inspectors. "They don't even have a chance because it was taken from them when they were babies."