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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Families Of Lead-Poisoned Kids Face Challenges, But Milwaukee Leaders Don't Want Eviction To Be One

Susan Bence
Tens of thousands of Milwaukee's housing stock contains hazardous lead paint.

When a child tests high for lead, Milwaukee’s health department mobilizes. A nurse begins conferring with the family while an inspector looks for sources of lead in the home.

Thursday during the Public Safety and Health Committee meeting, Alderman Jose Perez said he wants to make sure that those families living in rental properties can’t be evicted by their landlords.

Perez says he and his colleagues have been hearing from concerned Milwaukee residents.

“Right now, executing some abatement, we realized this isn’t one of the protections under retaliation and we decided to include it,” Perez said.

Now, you might be expecting to hear from a stream of parents and livid landlords. But that didn’t happen.

Only Heiner Giese stepped forward. He represents the 500 members of the Apartment Association of Southeast Wisconsin.

Credit Susan M Bence
Milwaukee health commission Jeanette Kowalik talks with Heiner Giese after Thursday's Public Safety and Health Committee meeting.

Giese wanted to see changes in the proposed ordinance. “The effect would be to add a clause or some kind of provision that would state that a tenant has to be acting in good faith and not be delinquent in rent in order for the ordinance to apply,” he said

And Giese asked the committee to delay its vote.

Alderwoman Chantia Lewis says the problem is too big and there are too many lead hazards to allow city leaders to wait.

“Families are at stake and lives are at stake and this has been going on for generations. We have the term 'slumlord' for a reason. We need to make sure that the ownership knows they have to maintain the property because if you put another tenant in there, they’re coming into the same conditions,” Lewis said.

The committee voted – 5 to 0 – in favor of the resolution. Alderman Jose Perez plans to present it to the full Common Council June 18.

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Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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