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Massachusetts Lawmakers Demand HUD Take Action to Protect Public Housing Residents From Radon

Date Published: 02/15/2020 [Source]

Yesterday, February 14, House Rules Committee Chair James P. McGovern (MA-02) and United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), along with Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and United States Representatives Richard E. Neal (MA-01), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), William Keating (MA-09), Joseph P. Kennedy III (MA-04), Katherine M. Clark (MA-05), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Lori Trahan (MA-03), sent a letter to U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson demanding that the department take action to protect federally-subsidized housing tenants from the colorless, odorless and cancer-causing gas radon.

The lawmakers' letter came after a nationwide investigative report found uneven testing and high radon levels in federally-subsidized units across the country, including in cities across Massachusetts. Fewer than one in three of the sixty-four public housing agencies across the country surveyed in the report provided proof of radon testing.

"It is the responsibility of HUD to ensure that housing authorities are given the resources they require for radon testing and mitigation. The President's national budget for fiscal year 2021 requested only $5 million for radon testing and remediation in public housing, which is not nearly enough. Unfortunately, HUD did not request any additional funding for either radon testing or mitigation in its past two budget justifications." the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

Under a federal law passed in 1988, HUD is required to develop an effective departmental policy for dealing with radon contamination to ensure that occupants of public housing are not exposed to hazardous levels of radon. While HUD issued guidance in 2013 encouraging housing authorities to test for radon, the Department does not enforce the policy or provide local housing authorities with funding to conduct radon testing.

In fact, between 2013 and 2018, HUD did not test for radon in a single unit operated by a housing authority directly managed by HUD.

"By choosing not to enforce radon testing and mitigation at the local level, HUD is disproportionately harming lower income Americans who do not have the ability to move," wrote the delegation.

To address their concerns, the lawmakers demanded that HUD take action to ensure that the 3,300 housing authorities nationwide are given the guidance and resources necessary to ensure that the 1.2 million households living in federally-subsidized housing units are protected against radon exposure.