Mayor Jackson Introduces Healthy Homes Interdepartmental Initiative

The City of Cleveland launched last week its new Healthy Homes Interdepartmental Initiative, as part of its ongoing commitment to creating healthy homes in neighborhoods throughout the city. The proactive, multi-year program results from 1.5 years of internal planning and focuses on interdepartmental collaboration between Building and Housing, Public Health, Community Development, Law, Housing Court and multiple external partners.

Interdepartmental Collaboration

The City has removed silos and streamlined its responses to critical housing issues, including lead contamination. Part of the new collaboration includes a multi-faceted strategy designed to prevent illnesses related to the home environment; create an inventory of healthy homes and prevent health issues. This includes preventative education and outreach, rental registration and inspection, a searchable database, family resources, and lead poisoning prevention program. View video of a panel discussion with the five departments.

As part of the Mayor’s enhanced budget, the Department of Building and Housing will increase its budget by more than $1.9 million to add 33 employees including inspection staff and a lead specialist that will form the Rental Inspection Unit. The Department of Public Health will also increase its budget by more than $1.5 million and add 21 employees who will focus on multiple issues, including the prevention of lead poisoning.

Rental Registration

The program strengthens a rental registration process that already requires owners of rental units to register their units annually by subjecting them to a minor misdemeanor citation for failure to register. It also expands the definition of ‘rental unit’ to include units designed or intended to be used as a private residence regardless of whether the occupant pays rent. Third, it requires owners to allow inspections of their rental units in accordance with a rental unit inspection schedule.

Searchable Online Database

Families can now search online to find information about where homes marked as having lead hazards and other housing code violations are located. Search the portal here:

Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

As part of the initiative, and as mandated by the State of Ohio, the City began a concentrated effort to placard homes beginning May 17. It has since placarded a total of 38 homes. Placarded homes are identified by the City as having lead hazards. They are determined to be unsafe for human occupation, especially for children under 6 and pregnant women. Placarding gives owners and tenants, who have been previously notified, “final notice” they must address the lead issue in the home before it becomes habitable.

Once placarded, a property must be immediately vacated until the lead hazard control order is brought into compliance. It is then validated by a third party who will conduct a lead clearance exam to confirm that the lead hazards have been remediated.

While the City does not cover moving expenses, it does provide guidance to families by connecting them to resources provided throughout the community.

Additional Strategies

The City also is working with representatives from the Ohio Department of Public Health to increase the pace of addressing uninspected homes. Mayor Jackson has also expressed formal opposition to the state amendment preventing local municipalities from addressing lead hazards and lead poisoning in their communities.

Starting in October 2015, the City also began working with additional external partners, including the Cleveland Tenant Organization, Cleveland Housing Network, Cuyahoga Board of Health, Environmental Health Watch, J. Aude & Associates and Spanish American Committee as well as academic partners, Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland State University, and Case Western Reserve University.