Brownsville lands housing grant

After receiving more than $500,000 in a federal grant earlier this month, the Brownsville Housing Authority will work to eliminate lead-based paint hazards from some of its oldest units.

On Sept. 5, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the Housing Authority of the City of Brownsville (HACB) a $528,600 grant as part of the department’s Lead-Based Paint Capital Fund Program.

The funds are used to ensure public housing developments that were tested and abated more than 20 years ago remain lead-free.

In the next coming months, HACB will conduct an updated assessment and proceed to eliminate any lead-based paint hazard reflected on the final report, according to HACB CEO Carla Mancha.

“With these funds, we will be focusing on our three oldest developments, which are Buena Vida, Bougainvillea and Victoria Gardens,” Mancha said. “The funds will directly impact 246 families. We are very humbled and blessed that HUD chose our housing authority after a competitive process to receive these funds.”

The grant funds will be used for lead-based paint risk assessments, inspections, abatement, interim controls and clearance examinations.

Mancha said the grant will also be used toward ongoing efforts to address lead hazards in aging public housing units, which the Brownsville Housing Authority has already done to assure that the issue does not affect families.

“Any building that was constructed prior to 1978 has the potential or vulnerability to have lead-based paint,” Mancha said. “However, owners, like (the Brownsville) Housing Authority, have addressed that either by encapsulating the lead-based paint or covering it up, painting over it or completely removing it.”

The Brownsville Housing Authority will also update its five-year plan to include the federal grant it received.

HACB was one of 20 housing authorities in the nation and the only one in Texas awarded the grant.

In a Sept. 11 news release, Zuleika Morales-Romero, director of the San Antonio HUD Field Office, said lead-safe homes are important for residents’ health.

“Children are our most valuable asset,” Morales-Romero said in the news release. “HACB’s Lead Program will run the gamut of program services, from risk assessment to abatement to clearance examinations.”

Lead is a highly toxic metal that may cause a range of health problems, especially in young children, according to HUD’s website.

When lead is absorbed into the body, it can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs, such as kidneys, nerves and blood.

Deteriorated lead-paint mixes with household dust and soil can be found inside and outside a home. Children may become lead poisoned by placing their hands into their mouths after touching lead-contaminated objects, eating paint chips found in homes with peeling or flaking lead-based paint or playing in lead-contaminated soil.

Mancha said every project HACB takes on, it always places families first.

“These critical federal dollars will help update, improve and protect housing for HACB families, children and seniors,” she said. “It will ensure we are providing safe and healthy places for our families to live and grow. We applaud HUD and congress for their continued investment to improve public housing communities.”