I firmly believe that strengthening our neighborhoods is crucial to the success of the City of Fort Wayne and I'm pleased we received nearly $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The grant will create healthier homes throughout our city by removing lead-based paint from our rental housing stock. These low-interest loans are available to landlords for rental housing improvements in neighborhoods throughout Fort Wayne.
The effort is geared toward expanding rental housing options in what the Fort Wayne Housing Authority refers to as "opportunity neighborhoods", which are census tracks that have less than 20% poverty, and have access to the bus line, fresh food and jobs. Funds will be distributed through the City's Office of Housing & Neighborhood Services (OHNS) which will conduct lead risk assessments, educational events and will enroll nearly 800 units to receive lead remediation and cleanup.
Lead-based paint can lead to a variety of health problems in young children under the age of six. It is most often found in homes built before 1978.
Fort Wayne's grant was one of only 43 awarded across the country and HUD officials say they were particularly impressed with the OHNS joining several agencies to form the Fort Wayne/Allen County Healthy Homes Consortium. Those agencies include the Fort Wayne Housing Authority, Community Action of Northeast Indiana (CANI), the Fort Wayne/Allen County Department of Health, the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and private sector partners the Apartment Association of Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana and the Upstate Alliance of Realtors.
Landlords and realtors who provide affordable rental housing are invited to apply for these low-interest loans, which would enable them to improve their properties by removing lead-based paint, making the homes energy efficient and addressing any code-related deficiencies. For more information, go to www.cityoffortwayne.org/healthy-homes-a-neighborhood-initiatives.html.
On another note, I hope that some of you were able to take part in my first live online chat, which took place on Thursday, March 29. Anyone with Internet access was able to view or participate in an online conversation with me for an hour that afternoon.
The session is part of my SmartGov initiative to make local government more welcoming, responsive and accessible to all residents. SmartGov brings City government closer to residents and the online chat is another valuable way to have a conversation and have questions answered in real-time.
You can view the questions and answers of the Live Chat – at www.cityoffortwayne.org/MayorChat.