Controversial bill to make Philly rental housing lead safe could finally see Council action

Pat Loeb
September 19, 2019 - 4:00 am
Philadelphia City Hall.

Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A clash is brewing over a controversial bill in Philadelphia City Council that would require every rental unit built before 1978 to be lead safe. The bill's sponsor is expected to push it forward Thursday after months of trying to find a compromise between supporters and opponents, but opposition remains fierce. 

Currently, apartments must be certified lead safe if children under six are living in them. That's proved unenforceable, so Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced legislation requiring all rental units built before 1978 to be lead safe.

Brown introduced the bill last year and it cleared a committee in March, but she hasn't brought it up for a vote because of continuing opposition from realtors and apartment owners. 

This week, she circulated amendments meant to address some of the objections, but it's clear from a letter opponents sent to her colleagues (and obtained by KYW Newsradio) that they are not satisfied with the changes.

"We've given them many different ways on how to deal with this problem rather than having owners have to spend $240 million to comply with what they want, which is going to effect (the rate at which) this city is losing low- and moderate-income housing," said Victor Pinckney with the landlord group HAPCO. 

Advocates of the bill are trying to match that pressure. 

Donna Cooper of Public Citizens for Children and Youth points to the 1,600 children poisoned by lead in 2017.

"Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of children being exposed to lead and being lead poisoned in the country, so we have a crisis and this bill is essential to cure it," she said. 

Cooper also says it offers simplicity.

"The current lead law in Philadelphia is a little difficult to understand. The landlords we're working with say, 'look, if it's every rental property built before '78, we know we're in or we know we're out,'" she added.