The Pima County Administration Building, right, at 130 W Congress St.

Pima County was awarded a three-year $1.7 million grant for lead paint abatement and other home safety repairs from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Work funded by the grant will start in the 2018 federal fiscal year, which begins in October.

About $1.5 million will be used to identify and remove lead hazards from an estimated 100 homes primarily in Ajo, the Flowing Wells area and the city of South Tucson. The areas were selected based on their large populations of low-income households with children, and concentrations of homes built before 1978.

Molly Hilber, the lead grant writer for this project, said the program will mostly target homes in these areas with children under the age of 6. The funding will also assist residents of Pima County who live outside the city of Tucson, which received a similar lead abatement grant from HUD in spring 2016.

The grant provides an additional $150,000 to help remove other household hazards in the selected areas. Potential items covered under the “healthy homes” funding include asbestos and mold removal, repairing broken handrails or steps, and removing other trip hazards.

Some of the funding will also be used for educational purposes.

Marcos Ysmael, the manager of the Pima County Housing Program, the department leading this project, said they are hoping to provide special safety trainings.

“We are going to be promoting education for both homeowners and renters, as well as landlords, rental properties and contractors who will be working on these properties and may not be aware of all the hazards that could be present in these homes,” he said.

Pima County will collaborate with several different local organizations to implement each part of the program.

Outreach and research will be done by The Southwest Fair Housing Council and the Sonoran Environmental Research Institute, which will assist Spanish-speaking communities and focus on outreach during community events.

The International Sonoran Desert Alliance and the Desert Senita Community Health Center will work to inform qualifying households in the Ajo area about this program. ISDA will undergo special training and will be responsible for conducting abatement in Ajo, under the supervision of Pima County’s Department of Community Development and Neighborhood Conservation.

Participating households will be able to have their children tested for lead through community health organizations including El Rio Community Health Centers, mobile nursing care services provided by the Pima County Health Department and Desert Senita Community Health Center, according to Hilber.

Lead poisoning in children can cause developmental delays, learning difficulties and a host of other serious health problems. Lead can be found in the paint of older homes, older water pipes and faucets, and in some toys manufactured outside of the United States.

“I think every parent wants what is best for their children, but there are some very real barriers that make it difficult to get their homes assessed for lead hazards,” she said. “We hope to remove some of those barriers with this program so any child in Pima County can have access to a healthy home.”

This is the first grant of its kind to be awarded to Pima County. This year HUD awarded $127 million in lead-abatement grants to 48 different agencies across the nation.

“We don’t always have the funding for lead abatement or to address these hazards in other properties,” Ysmael said. “This funding will allow us to be able to do that and hopefully we will get others involved, other partners and additional funding so we can keep this going.”

To learn more about the program, call 724-8562.

Jamie Verwys is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at