Funding continues OAG’s support of Erie County window replacement program
Submitted by the Office of New York Attorney General Letitia James
New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday announced she is providing $350,000 to Erie County to fight lead poisoning and reduce energy costs for low-income families. This funding continues the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) support for the Erie County window replacement program, which has already replaced more than 560 windows in 54 housing units to eliminate lead paint hazards, increase energy efficiency, and save families money on their energy bills. The announced funding will provide up to eight new windows in at least 75 homes serving low-income families.
“Aging, decaying windows are one of the key reasons that low-income families face the highest risk of lead exposure and are forced to spend an outsized share of their income on energy bills,” James said. “The Erie County window replacement program uses proven tactics to tackle childhood lead poisoning while increasing energy efficiency and saving families money. I am proud to continue our support of this important project, and grateful to County Executive (Mark) Poloncarz for his partnership in ensuring we provide safer, healthier, and more affordable housing to those who need it most.”
Poloncarz said, “Addressing lead paint hazards is an ongoing need in our community, and attorney general James has shown her commitment to the issue with the window replacement program, helping low-income families eliminate lead hazards in their homes, and also saving money on energy costs. This a win-win and I thank the attorney general for helping to create a safer, healthier Erie County.”
Erie County Legislature Chairwoman April Baskin said, “In our quest to eliminate lead poisoning in Erie County, we’ve seen that enforcement alone does not work. We also need a steady stream of funding to remediate our houses. In Buffalo, 64% of the homes were built prior to 1940, which is 30 years before lead was removed from paint. It is going to take a monumental, home-by-home approach to fully remove the lead from our homes. I am grateful to the attorney general, as she visited with myself and Department of Health officials earlier this year on our lead poisoning prevention initiatives. I also thank the county executive for working with our attorney general to invest these funds into the places our most vulnerable residents call home, so we can make them a little safer for our children.”
The Erie County window replacement program assists homeowners and property owners who provide housing to low-income families to ensure housing units built prior to 1978 are lead-safe, properly weatherized, and energy efficient. The OAG first sponsored the program in 2017 with a grant of approximately $350,000 secured from a settlement with Mattel and Fisher-Price regarding the sale of toys containing lead paint. This additional $350,000 grant was secured through the National Mortgage Settlement and a settlement with one of the nation’s largest power companies, American Electric Power, for violations of the Clean Air Act.
The Buffalo Metropolitan Area has among the oldest housing stock of any major city and surrounding region in the country, as well as one of the nation’s highest average energy burdens, or the percentage of household income spent on energy costs. Replacing old windows in poor condition shields homes from extreme temperatures, which increases the home’s energy efficiency and saves families money on their energy bills. Painted windows in pre-1978 buildings often contain lead, and the frequent friction of opening and closing windows can expose children and families to lead paint chips and lead dust. Window replacement addresses these lead exposure hazards and is a critical public health tool in the low-income communities where lead poisoning most often occurs.
In order to qualify for the window replacement program, a housing unit must be occupied by a family earning below 90% of the area median income with a child under the age of 6, or a vacant unit that is regularly rented to low-income families with young children. The program is only available for homes in Erie County, and the unit’s owner may be required to contribute up to 75% of the cost of the window replacement, determined based on the owner’s income.
Erie County is partnering with Belmont Housing Resources, a leading advocate for quality, affordable housing in Western New York, to manage window replacements for the program.
“The Buffalo and Erie County Lead Safe Task Force has been linking arms with partners in the city, county, and New York state to eradicate lead poisoning in many ways, and the Attorney General’s Office James has been unwavering in its commitment to protect Erie County’s children from poisonous lead hazards,” said Cara Matteliano, senior director of policy and strategic partnerships, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, and convener of the Buffalo & Erie County Lead Safe Task Force. “Its support for window replacement is an important step to making homes a safe and healthy place for parents to raise their families. The attorney general’s investment will make a difference for the lives of young children who are vulnerable to the lead hazards typically found in the deteriorated paint in window wells of older homes.”