Federal prosecutors in New York City are investigating lead levels in low-income housing.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York notified the city in July that it was investigating lead levels in privately owned buildings that receive subsidies from tenants’ Section 8 vouchers, Univision Investiga 41 reported. The probe wasn’t made public until now.
The Section 8 program puts low-income renters in private apartments, caps their rent at a fixed percentage of their income, and a public subsidy makes up the difference to the landlord. In return, landlords must adhere to strict maintenance standards — including certifying that the apartments are lead-free — or the apartment can lose its Section 8 status.
But critics say some landlords may be lying about the lead-free status of their apartments. When federal prosecutors demanded the city hand over medical records of lead tests, it refused to do so without a court order. This week, the city confirmed that it had turned over information to comply with the federal probe.
The city’s building and health departments launched their own investigation into lead levels last year. Lead-based paint was banned in 1960, but remediating the toxin has proved difficult in older buildings.