Sunday, January 7, 2007

Open letter to Office of Housing and Community Development for "Release of funds for lead-based paint hazard control in privately owned housing grant"

Lead-based paint removal on homes prior to 1940 should be done with utmost care to respect the architectural integrity of the property by preserving all existing wood casings, doors, floors, moldings, windows, plaster and other features of the building that help give the home character. The city of Somerville has continually removed architectural features and replaced them with cheaper building products and inappropriate styles, thereby devaluing the properties that they are deleading.

Making a home lead safe does not mean the building?s components have to be destroyed. All lead paint removal projects should maximize the use of the funds by performing activities that maintain the character of the property while making a house safer. All work should minimize the damage to the architectural elements so the quality and integrity of the home remains intact. Therefore I would like to see the City of Somerville perform, at a minimum, the following with any of its lead-based abatement programs, regardless or not if any other funds are being used.

  • Perform lead paint removal that keeps existing wood elements in place without replacement, or allows for removal of the elements for proper de-leading and then put back in place.
  • If for some reason materials should be replaced, then they should be replaced with products and materials in kind that also duplicate the style that was previously used.
  • Use lead paint removal methods that does minimal damage to all architectural elements.
  • Staff administering lead paint programs should become more knowledgeable on architectural features of the buildings, including reading a preservation brief by the National Park Service titled, Appropriate Methods for Reducing Lead-Paint Hazards in Historic Housing. They can refer to as a starting point for education and articles.
  • Staff administering lead-paint programs should consult with building professionals who have a good knowledge of building materials, architectural styles and are sensitive to maintaining historic character of a building.
  • Staff administering lead-paint education programs should learn and explain the importance of keeping architectural elements rather than replacing them.

By incorporating the above requests on all properties built prior to 1940, the City of Somerville will not only make housing lead safe, but also help to preserve the character of Somerville?s old homes for future generations to enjoy.

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