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HUD may offer assistance to homeowners with toxic drywall

By Staff | Dec 15, 2009

Relief for local victims of toxic drywall could be on the way soon from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Thousands of homeowners in the southeastern United States and more than 100 Cape Coral residents have Chinese drywall, a substandard supply of materials used to repair and build new homes in 2004 and 2005.
Traces of the toxic drywall are often unnoticeable, but when exposed to humidity they emit noxious gases with an odor of sulfur and corrode electric or copper wiring. Many homeowners have even reported respiratory problems and bloody noses as a result of the gases.
And the only way for many to rectify the problem is to tear out the bad drywall and install new panels.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, announced Friday that HUD is close to deciding how victims of toxic drywall can receive assistance from the federal government.
“HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development will shortly be issuing guidance making it clear that actions to remediate drywall can be eligible for assistance under the Community Development Block Grant program,” wrote HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan in a letter to Nelson.
CDBG grants often help troubled communities by providing funds to offer affordable housing, services or jobs, and may be open to homeowners wanting to rid their homes of Chinese drywall.
“This is the first time that the federal government clearly has identified a possible way to fix the drywall,” said Nelson in a statement to the media. “Hopefully we’ll get the guidelines within a couple of weeks.”
Cape Coral resident Richard Kampf was the main organizer for last week’s Toxic Drywall Rally in North Fort Myers. He said 350 people attended and each of them was affected by the drywall issue.
“What Sen. Nelson has done is dig into the details with the HUD secretary. They have made at least an initial conclusion that Chinese drywall victims can use the money for remediation regardless of income,” said Kampf. “However, it has to be requested by local government.”
In order to receive these funds, Kampf said, either the city of Cape Coral or Lee County has to apply for the grant money, but word has to get out to local governments.
“It is an avenue that will be useful for people like us,” said Kampf.
Cape Coral Mayor John Sullivan said city council would “certainly” pursue any federal grants to aid residents with disposing of the drywall.
Last week over 2,000 people, including Cape Coral residents and homeowners in the southeastern United States, filed a lawsuit against one of the main drywall manufacturers, Knauf Plasterboard Co., and builders who installed it.
Plaintiffs are seeking compensation to have the substandard drywall removed and treat any health problems resulting from exposure to the gases.
The Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and the Consumer Product Commission are in the 11th month of a joint investigation on the effects of drywall, but have yet to pin down a connection between the gases released and complaints of respiratory problems from homeowners.
In November the Consumer Product Safety Commission identified a connection between the drywall and the presence of hydrogen sulfide. In a 51-home study, the commission found that “hydrogen sulfide is the main component that causes copper and silver sulfide corrosion.”