Deleading Credit Bill to be Filed
Hi! My name is Doug Quattrochi. I’m the executive director of MassLandlords, and we’re going to share with you today’s business update on a bill that we’ve drafted to increase the deleading credit. This is a really important thing.
I hope you are aware that in Massachusetts, it’s unlawful to rent an apartment or a home with lead hazards, whether known or unknown, to anyone who’s under the age of 6, so if you ask a little kid, “How old are you?” and they say, “I’m 5,” or they say a lower number, they can’t live in an apartment or a home unless it’s been deleaded. Of course, you know it’s discriminatory to turn away a family with children, so landlords are required to delead.
That’s the legal framework we have in Massachusetts have had since the ‘70s, and that’s enforced through mandatory testing. It’s really a good idea because if a kid gets exposure to lead, even in the smallest amount, it can make a lifetime difference for the worse in terms of educational attainment, economic abilities, and lifetime earnings. Lead is really bad. It can have all kinds of other implications, too, for relationships and likelihood of committing crimes and having mental health issues, and so on. It's really important that we’ve got this fixed. Lead is not like iron where you need a little bit in your multivitamin every day. Lead is just completely bad.
Now, in Massachusetts we have funded a need to remove this shared public health crisis through Schedule LP, which is deleading tax credits. If a landlord removes lead from a unit, they can claim a tax credit back of up to $1,500 per unit for getting that delead cert. In addition, we’ve made a lot of prints available, especially the federal government through Housing and Urban Development has made a lot of prints available to get lead out of properties.
But in Massachusetts at least for the part we’re funding ourselves, this $1,500 deleading credit, which was very ahead of its time in the ‘70s, the first state to have a deleading credit like this, this credit has not been updated since that bill was first enacted, so this was what Boston Market District looked like. You see the cars and dress, and so on. This is a 50-year-old tax credit that has never been updated for inflation once.
If you actually were to look at what inflation has done to this deleading credit over time or how we would have needed to increase the deleading credit in order to keep pace, you take that $1,500, it should easily be $6,000 in today’s money. that’s the lowest acceptable level that a deleading credit in Massachusetts should be per unit and that is about the average cost to delead a unit. But unfortunately, it’s not just inflation. There’s a whole lot of other market pressures including limited labor supply, inability to get resources and building materials, and if you look at a unit that has lead-covered windows, to delead that unit is $15,000, which is a nontrivial amount of money here, and so that’s why we’ve proposed to upgrade our deleading credit to this amount.
Now just to reinforce that this deleading law actually works, let me show you a graph from the CDC. This is federal data analyzing Massachusetts’ success with our lead program, and the way they tell is they do is a blood test and they look for how many micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) of blood lead that we have in our kids here, and anything above 5 mcg/dL is poisoned. But just for the sake of consistency because the thresholds have gone down over time, we’re looking at 10 mcg/dL here.
You can see, Massachusetts Lead Law has been effective. Certainly over the last 30 years, the number of kids with elevated blood lead levels has been declining, but for every level of blood we set whether it’s 50 mcg/dL, 25 mcg/dL, 10 mcg/dL, or 5 mcg/dL, those decreases are slowing and the curves are leveling out, so we’re not making so much progress anymore. That’s really not right specially when you look at what’s now considered lead poisoned, a level of 5 mcg/dL. Every year, we’re seeing thousands of kids in Massachusetts whose intellects are being impaired, whose future lifetime earnings are being impaired, whose risk of adverse social interactions is increasing because of nothing they did wrong, nothing their parents did wrong, just exposure to this public health crisis of lead in our very old housing stock. These are not small numbers we’re talking about here.
The solution is simple. It’s a one-line bill that we’ve drafted in our filing in legislature. Just change the $1,500 tax credit to $15,000. It doesn’t fix everything. We still need lead surveillance in kids’ blood. We still need to be able to enforce discrimination protections, but this is a huge improvement that really decreases any concerns a landlord would have, any limited economic ability a landlord would have to get lead out of older rental housing. This is a really important update in Massachusetts and we hope you’ll support us with this.
We want to thank our property rights supporters and our volunteers, folks who helped us to get this bill filed. It’s really impossible to do all this policy work without you, so thank you very much. We really appreciate it. If you’re not a member, please join. If you are a member, please become a property rights supporter and donate extra to found our policy work.
Thank you very much for helping us create better rental housing in Massachusetts. That’s our business update for today.