Blondell Reynolds Brown

Blondell Reynolds Brown

A Philadelphia City Councilwoman has ironed out a so-called “wrinkle” in her legislation that would boost lead-safety protections for nearly all renters, but the bill remains sidelined.

Amendments are in store for the bill that would mandate all rental units built before 1978 be certified as free of lead except for those housing college students, said at-large Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, the main sponsor of the legislation.

“The lead bill in its current form is simply not working,” she said on the floor of the City Council Chambers in City Hall on Thursday.

But Reynolds Brown declined to share the details of the upcoming amendments, only saying there were “less than a dozen.”

The current city law requires landlords renting properties built before 1978 — when the consumer use of lead paint was banned — certify units are lead-free only if they will be occupied by families with children 6 years old or younger.

Advocates say the current law is too narrow, does not protect children and causes landlords to discriminate against families with young children, while the rental industry is fighting the proposal that they say will burden landlords, raise rents and increase wait times for units due to testing and remediation.

Reynolds Brown met with stakeholders and industry representatives to discuss the bill in July in a closed-door meeting.

The city has nearly 5,800 unexpired lead-safe certifications. However, children 6 and younger reside in an estimated 22,000 rental properties throughout the city.

Predominantly Black neighborhoods in North Philadelphia and parts of West and Southwest Philadelphia experience higher rates of lead exposure than the rest of the city, according to a 2017 city Health Department report.

Reynolds Brown put her proposed legislation on hold in June leading up to council’s summer recess due to what she called a “wrinkle,” which she declined to elaborate on at the time.

On Thursday, Reynolds Brown said that wrinkle had involved ensuring city departments could implement and enforce the proposed legislation.

Reynolds Brown, a Democrat, is on the clock to get her legislation passed by the end of the year.

The long-time councilwoman is not seeking re-election in November. The final session of council on Dec. 12 will mark the end of this City Council’s four-year term and any unmoved legislation will die. In January, a new 17-member council will be sworn in.

Reynolds Brown expected her legislation, which was introduced in October 2018, to receive a final vote in City Council in the coming weeks. She said she was confident that “by the end of the year, we’ll have a better solution to the issue.”

“Complex, legislative, public-health-related issues take time,” she said.

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