Waters, Tlaib and Pressley Blast HUD for Ignoring Low-Income Tenants Seeking to Save Their Homes

November 18, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) wrote a letter to Ben Carson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to express concerns regarding the agency’s proposed National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE) demonstration and its lack of resident participation in the development and implementation of the agency’s new physical inspection model.

“While we appreciate HUD’s efforts to overhaul the current physical inspection model to increase consistency and accountability, and better protect the health and safety of residents, we are concerned that HUD’s implementation of the demonstration so far has not included tenant perspectives in its stakeholder engagement, and that HUD has failed to indicate how it will do so,” the lawmakers wrote. “In its recently published notice to implement the NSPIRE demonstration, HUD states that it is seeking feedback from a ‘diverse, representative group of stakeholders.’[1] However, according to the National Housing Law Project, HUD has only engaged HUD officials, as well as public housing agencies, owners and agents (POAs), to develop the demonstration. The HUD notice is also disconcertingly silent on the issue of resident engagement.[2]”

See below for the full text of the letter.

The Honorable Benjamin S. Carson

Secretary

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

451 7th Street S.W.

Washington, DC 20410-0001

Dear Secretary Carson:

We write to express our concerns regarding HUD’s proposed National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE) demonstration and its current lack of resident participation in both the development and implementation of the agency’s new physical inspection model. The NSPIRE demonstration, in part, was born out of the recognition that the current inspection protocol did not place enough emphasis on assessing the conditions of residents’ homes and was too focused on the “curb appeal” of the property, leading to properties in poor condition still receiving passing inspection scores. The demonstration seeks to address this problem by allowing public housing agencies (PHAs) and owners that opt into the demonstration to be subjected to a revised inspection protocol. The revisions are designed to rebalance the scoring criteria to place greater weight on health and safety issues, especially those within housing units.

While we appreciate HUD’s efforts to overhaul the current physical inspection model to increase consistency and accountability, and better protect the health and safety of residents, we are concerned that HUD’s implementation of the demonstration so far has not included tenant perspectives in its stakeholder engagement, and that HUD has failed to indicate how it will do so. In its recently published notice to implement the NSPIRE demonstration, HUD states that it is seeking feedback from a “diverse, representative group of stakeholders.”[1]  However, according to the National Housing Law Project, HUD has only engaged HUD officials, as well as public housing agencies, owners and agents (POAs), to develop the demonstration. The HUD notice is also disconcertingly silent on the issue of resident engagement.[2]  Residents are one of the most important stakeholders, who can offer critical insight on how the NSPIRE demonstration can better ensure accuracy and accountability and call attention to issues not currently captured by the NSPIRE model.

As Congress and HUD have already acknowledged, resident participation is essential to helping maintain the physical conditions of assisted properties.[3]  By ensuring residents have the ability to provide feedback to HUD at some point during the inspection protocol, the agency can better capture a more accurate assessment of the physical conditions of properties. But despite statutory and regulatory provisions recognizing the importance of resident participation, HUD’s current inspection protocol does not include resident engagement and HUD has continuously excluded residents from participating in the physical inspection process.[4]  The NSPIRE demonstration is a critical opportunity for HUD to correct this oversight, and to enhance its ability to ensure HUD-supported housing is safe and decent for current and future residents. Given the growing body of evidence showing that health outcomes rely heavily on conditions of homes and neighborhoods, these changes are needed to ensure the overall well-being of families receiving HUD-assistance.

As you work to fully implement the NSPIRE demonstration, we urge you to ensure that tenants and advocates are provided an opportunity to give feedback through the use of focus groups, as well as hosting listening sessions at assisted properties participating in the demonstration. Thank you for your consideration, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to Elayne Weiss with my staff at (202) 225-4247 if you have any questions about this letter.

Sincerely,

Rep. Maxine Waters

Chairwoman

Rep. Rashida Tlaib

Rep. Ayanna Pressley

 

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