MANCHESTER — Owners of apartment buildings and houses have little time to apply for a grant that can provide up to $15,000 per unit to remove or remediate dangerous lead paint, according to city officials and a landlord advocacy group.
Nearly $2 million remains unspent of a $3.9 million grant that the city of Manchester received in 2011, said Claude Rounds, lead program manager for the city of Manchester. Any money that has not been spent or committed by August will have to be returned to Washington, he said.
“We still have a lot of money to spend and only five months to get it under contract,” Rounds said.
The program provides the grant as a loan, which is forgiven after five years as long as the parameters of the loan are followed. The program requires the landlord to rent to tenants with low or moderate incomes, and it encourages landlords to rent to tenants with children, Rounds said.
Rounds said any apartments with lead are eligible, whether or not a child has been poisoned at the apartment or not. Single family homes are eligible as long as a child lives in the home.
About a year ago, the city made the loans forgivable, after landlords showed little interest in the program.
With the change, the 3,500-member New Hampshire Property Owners Association, which advocates for landlords, started endorsing the program, said organization president Debbie Valente.
Valente said she used to advise against the program because the loans, although with zero-percent interest, were not forgiven. She said it will be devastating for Manchester if the money goes unspent.
“It employs people, it makes units safe, and it helps property owners,” Valente said. Already, many insurance companies won’t write homeowners policies for property with exposed lead, she said. She thinks government will eventually prohibit rental of apartments with lead.
She said the program is not popular because many landlords still fear they will have to repay the loan.
“Property owners still believe in the stigma of the loan; they can’t get past it,” Valente said.
She said the Manchester program is much more generous than a state-run program, which provides $6,500 per unit, and a Nashua program, which provides $8,500 per unit. Abatement work cannot be completed for that amount, and the landlords who go through the state or Nashua have to contribute substantial sums toward the work, Valente said.
Work involves the replacement of windows, doors and moldings, and painting of interior and exterior surfaces. About 190 rental units in Manchester have been remediated under the grant, Rounds said.
Anyone interested should call 623-9060 or visit www.leadsafemanchester.com.