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March 05. 2013 11:17PM

Manchester offers loan forgiveness for landlords removing lead paint

MANCHESTER - With little landlord interest in a lead abatement program, city officials have revised the program to allow forgiveness of loans used to fund removal of lead hazards from dangerous apartment buildings in the city.

The program makes $15,000 available to clear lead from each apartment in a building where lead hazards are detected. New provisions allow for the federally funded loans to be forgiven after five years, as long as the landlord complies with parameters of the program.

In a statement, the city said the change makes the city program consistent with similar efforts in the region and across the country.

"This change was approved by the mayor and Board of Aldermen and resulted from Manchester property owners' reluctance to participate in the program and the City's requirement to complete its 2010 lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration Grant on schedule," the city announced in a statement.

Claude Rounds, manager of the Manchester Lead Hazard Control Program, said $2.4 million in funds remain from the $3.9 million federal grant the city received to fund lead abatement efforts.

Earlier participants in the current grant could have their loan forgiven, but property owners who participated in 2003 and 2006 grants, which have already closed, cannot be changed, Rounds said.

Initial terms called for the city to issue no-interest loans to landlords. A lien was placed on the property and the loan would have to be repaid when the property changed hands.

Last year, the city took over control of the program from a private consultant. In January, the city said it had few takers for the program and was instituting a push among landlords.

Rounds said landlords were reluctant to apply because they did not want to add more debt onto property where more is owed than it is worth.

Typical lead abatement work involves window and door replacements, scraping and painting of hazardous surfaces, vinyl siding and replacement of stair treads and risers.

Lead can cause neurological damage in children, leading to learning disabilities, behavioral problems and even death.

Rounds said the grant period ends in August 2014, but the final two months of the grant are used to wrap up projects under way.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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