NAHRO Bullet Points for NSPIRE Protocol Comment Letter
Comments for HUD’s “Economic Growth Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act: Implementation of National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE)” proposed rule are due on Monday, March 15. Below, please find NAHRO’s main bullet points from our comment letter. NAHRO members should feel free to draw from NAHRO’s comments if they choose to submit their own comments.
- Number of unknowns: NAHRO is concerned by the number of unknowns that exist within the proposed rule. There a substantial number of instances in the proposed rule in which HUD notes additional information will be released via the Federal Register for comments later. These omissions in the proposed rule prevent stakeholders from fully understanding the overall impact of the new inspection protocol to their agency.
- HUD Must Provide Ample Time for Comments on Updated Standards: The proposed rule notes that HUD plans to revisit NSPIRE standards and scoring protocols every three years. NAHRO believes HUD should use discretion in updating standards and scoring protocols to ensure the inspection process is not upended every three years.
- Qualified, Trained Inspectors: As with any inspection protocol, it will be critical that proper training is provided to inspectors before the implementation of the NSPIRE inspection protocol. Agencies should not be penalized due to growing pains associated with a new program and new inspector requirements. NAHRO recommends that HUD dedicate substantial time and effort to training inspectors in NSPIRE before implementing the new inspection protocol.
- NSPIRE Demonstration: Overall, NAHRO members who participated in the NSPIRE Demonstration had positive experiences. NAHRO hopes that HUD maintains a similar approach to implementing the NSPIRE protocols across all programs as it did for the demonstration.
- Water Safety: NAHRO believes it is the responsibility of the local, state, or federal government, either through HUD or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to monitor water quality across the country. If HUD is concerned about water quality, then HUD, either internally or through the EPA, should be able to perform regular, routine inquiries about public water systems around the country to ensure that those systems are in compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act.
- 2 -5 Year Inspection Time Period: NAHRO agrees with HUD’s proposal to expand the risk-based annual inspection requirement from 1 to 3 years to 2 to 5 years.
- Tenant Identified Poor Performing Properties: NAHRO is concerned about allowing tenants to either rate their properties or steer REAC toward inspecting certain units. Although it is important to ensure tenants can raise concerns about their units or the property itself to management, NAHRO believes there are too many potential factors at play to allow tenants to either rate their units personally or to insist their unit is a part of the random sample of inspected units.
- Self-Inspections: NAHRO is also concerned about the requirement for agencies to electronically submit self-inspection results. The proposed rule does not specify whether HUD will be providing a public software for agencies to report inspections at the property level. It will be imperative for HUD to provide a functional software to agencies to ensure that they can submit their self-inspection reports to HUD efficiently.
- Tenant Induced Damage: NAHRO recommends that the inspection process allows delineation between tenant-induced damage and non-tenant-induced damage, especially tenant-induced damage that is not reported to the PHA by the resident.
- Meeting the Congressional Intent of Section 209 of the Economic Growth Act: The congressional intent of including section 209 in the Economic Growth Act was to provide small, rural housing agencies with administrative relief related to their inspections. At the time, small agencies noted that Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspections for their Section 8 properties were more consistent and objective than the Uniform Performance Condition Standards (UPCS) inspection protocol used for their public housing properties. As such, NAHRO still believes that small, rural agencies should be allowed to use the HQS protocol to comply with inspection requirements.
HUD is proposing to determine if a PHA qualifies as a small, rural PHA every three years. NAHRO recommends that HUD allow for agencies determined to be small and rural to be grandfathered into the small, rural definition, unless there is significant and substantial change to the agency. This would provide additional consistency to small, rural agencies so that they do not have to worry about their inspection protocol potentially changing every three years.
HUD should also ensure that the thresholds for small, rural agencies to achieve high-performer status are not so stringent that they are impossible to meet.