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    Friday, April 19, 2024

    Mold bill inspired by Groton’s Branford Manor gets bipartisan support ― from Guam

    Mold is seen on the bathroom windowsill of a temporary apartment where Sara Alvarez and her family live at Branford Manor Apartments in Groton on Wednesday, January 25 2023. She was moved to the temporary apartment, which is already showing visible mold, while her home is being remediated for mold. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    A federal mold bill, first introduced by legislators because of a problem plaguing Groton’s Branford Manor apartment complex, now has bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Delegate James Moylan, a Republican from Guam, has signed on as a Republican co-lead in the House for the bill that U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, Ohio’s U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-3rd District, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced in September 2023.

    “Having a healthy and habitable home should be a basic standard for every American,” Moylan said in a statement. “Across the country, tenants of federally assisted housing live in moldy and hazardous conditions. The Healthy at Home Act of 2023 is a solution to ending inadequate living conditions through upholding reasonable standards and accountability.”

    He thanked Courtney for his work on the bill and said he is proud to be the Republican co-lead for the Healthy at Home Act of 2023.

    Guam faced Typhoon Mawar in May 2023 that led to problems with mold, according to Federal News Network.

    U.S. territories such as Guam and the Virgin Islands have delegates in the House of Representatives that can vote on congressional committees but not on the floor of the House.

    “The support from my colleague Delegate James Moylan of Guam (R)― who represents a community 8,000 miles away from eastern Connecticut― affirms that the serious issues facing Branford Manor residents are not an isolated incident, but rather a pervasive problem facing far too many tenants,” Courtney said in a statement.

    Branford Manor residents have complained about mold and other issues at the federally subsidized housing complex in the City of Groton. A class action suit from a group of residents against the owner of Branford Manor is pending in Connecticut Superior Court in Waterbury.

    Courtney said he and Moylan will “continue pushing our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance this legislation to improve living conditions for residents and upgrade the habitability of our nation’s and territories’ housing stock.”

    The proposed Healthy at Home Act calls for research on the health impacts of indoor mold and the creation of model standards for preventing, finding and fixing indoor residential mold that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development then would have to incorporate into its inspections, according to a section-by-section analysis of the bill.

    HUD recently revamped its inspection rules for federally subsidized housing with more detailed standards for mold.

    The bill further calls for equipping HUD with funding to award grants and low-interest loans for renovating or building new subsidized housing, a public information campaign about mold, and financial incentives for governments to require environmental hazards to be disclosed when a residential property, with at least four units, is sold, among other components.

    “This important initiative— inspired by Connecticut’s Branford Manor residents— will help make homes healthier throughout the nation,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “Our Healthy at Home Act requires strong standards for preventing, detecting and remediating indoor mold so that no one has to endure intolerable and unhealthy living conditions. An enforceable, effective standard is key to tenant health and safety.”

    Partnership for Strong Communities, a policy, advocacy, and research nonprofit organization focused on shaping housing solutions in Connecticut, is one of the 25 organizations endorsing the bill.

    “We are supportive of the bill because it is really tailored to address the specific challenges posed by mold and other health and safety risks, particularly in Connecticut’s older housing stock,” said Partnership for Strong Communities Executive Director Chelsea Ross. “We’re facing significant challenges in terms of housing affordability and availability in our state.”

    Ross said the bill is targeted to help the lowest income residents who often times are forced to live in substandard housing due to a lack of quality housing and who are pushed into homelessness and eviction but also unsafe and overcrowded housing in order to have a place to stay.

    Ross said Connecticut is facing a gap of more than 92,500 homes for extremely low-income renters, according to the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority’s 2023 Housing Needs Assessment.

    Ross said the state needs more homes and the expansion of rental assistance, but part of the solution is to preserve the existing housing. The bill provides the resources as well as other measures to ensure homes are preserved.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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