Houston Public Media, March 26, 2018
Officials say lead paint abatement will be a big focus
The Near Northside neighborhood is home to about 25,000 people and about a third live below the poverty line. The Houston Health Department said the neighborhood just north of downtown struggles with a lot of issues, including the condition of its housing stock. It’s estimated about 92 percent of the homes in the neighborhood are in need of lead paint abatement.
The United States banned lead in household paints in the 1970’s but some older homes still have it. And officials say 25 percent of Near Northside children who were tested showed elevated lead levels in their blood.
Efforts to improve the neighborhood’s health and safety will now benefit from a new $250,000 grant from the national “BUILD Health Challenge.” The Near Northside project was one of 19 around the country chosen for the grants. Along with the Houston Health Department, the non-profit housing corporation Avenue and the Memorial Hermann Health System are also participating.
Avenue Deputy Director Jenifer Wagley said Near Northside is just one of Houston’s old neighborhoods that continues to struggle with ongoing problems. “Even before Harvey it was hard for people to have safe, affordable housing,” said Wagley. “After Harvey the crisis has only intensified.”
Wagley explained that one of the things they’re working on in Near Northside is identifying homes that have cracked and peeling lead paint. Neighborhood volunteers have been walking in the blocks to talk to residents about remediation programs that could help.
“We are standing in the midst of what I think is an amazing circle right here,” added Wagley. “What does it take to really transform people’s health? How do we improve health outcomes? Should your zip code dictate how long you can live?”
The Near Northside effort is also looking at other projects that could improve the neighborhood’s health, like adding more green space for recreation.