NLIHC Submits Comments about Proposed REAC/NSPIRE Regulations

NLIHC submitted comments regarding HUD’s proposed regulations intended to align and consolidate the various physical inspection requirements of most of HUD’s housing programs (see Memo, 1/19 and NLIHC's summary of the proposed rule). HUD’s goal is to create a unified physical housing quality assessment system that has a new approach to defining and assessing housing quality. The proposed rule would establish the method HUD will use to implement National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE) standards, scoring, and processes through future Federal Register notices.

NSPIRE is a two-year pilot program started in August 2019 (see Memo, 8/26/19) that sought 4,500 public housing agencies (PHAs) and owners of private HUD-assisted multifamily properties to volunteer to adopt the NSPIRE physical inspection model. According to an October 29, 2018 email, HUD intends to change the 20-year-old Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) physical inspection system to better reflect the physical condition HUD-subsidized housing (see Memo, 10/29/18).

HUD has identified a disproportionate emphasis in physical inspections around the appearance of items that are otherwise safe and functional, while inadequate attention is paid to health and safety conditions. HUD concluded that existing housing standards should focus on habitability, residential use of structures, and most importantly, the health and safety of residents.

Housing quality regulations across HUD programs would be consolidated into one location at 24 CFR part 5. However, where different statutory requirements or public policy considerations prevent alignment with 24 CFR part 5, those program-specific requirements would be maintained in their respective program regulations and would supersede or supplement 24 CFR part 5. Most of the alignment of inspection protocols, processes, and procedures HUD proposes involve the public housing and multifamily programs (including project-based Section 8, Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly, and Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities).

The proposed rule aligns the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program (including the Project Based Voucher (PBV) and Tenant Based Voucher (TBV) programs) with other HUD programs, particularly those administered by HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD) to the maximum extent possible. Those CPD programs include the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME), the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), Housing for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA), and Continuum of Care (CoC) programs. 

NLIHC welcomed the proposed rule changes overall but offered comments to enhance protections for residents of all HUD-assisted housing and to prevent PHAs and owners/managers from evading their obligations to provide safe, habitable housing. In particular, NLIHC pointed to the need for the final rule to provide better notice to residents at various stages; means for residents to challenge a PHA’s or owner’s claims; and far greater engagement of residents throughout the physical inspection process.

NLIHC strongly opposed a new option that would allow an extended inspection cycle beyond three years to five years. 

NLIHC strongly endorsed suggestions made by the resident leaders of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT), initially offered to HUD in the late 1990s and more recently augmented in comments specifically about the NSPIRE demonstration. 

NLIHC’s comment letter is at:

NLIHC’s summary of the proposed rule is at:

The Federal Register version of the proposed rule is at:

An easier to read version of the proposed rule is at:     

HUD’s NSPIRE webpage is at:

More about public housing is on page 4-30 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.

More about Multifamily, project-based rental assistance is on page 4-61 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.