Feds Seek to Eliminate Duplicate Housing Inspections

Pilot program could mean less wasted time for local affordable housing offices.
by , | November 7, 2011
 

Administration officials announced today a new effort they say will ease regulatory burdens for local affordable housing offices by cutting back on the number of duplicative building inspections they are involved with.

Local affordable housing offices chase both state and federal dollars in the forms of subsidies, loan guarantees and other aid to help build housing for low-income residents. Typically, each provider of aid performs its own annual inspections of the property as part of its oversight role.

But that can become redundant. For example, a rural affordable housing project might be funded by separate programs within the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as the Department of Agriculture. Both of those agencies would conduct their own physical inspection of the property, and both times, they would likely be accompanied by a member of the local or state housing office overseeing the project.

At a time when state and local governments are tightening their belts and reducing staff, employees' time is an increasingly scarce resource. Those inspections may be wasting it if they're unnecessary.

That could soon change. Today, Wisconsin and Michigan are expected to sign agreements with the federal government as part of a pilot program to reduce the number of unnecessary physical inspections at rental properties subsidized by multiple agencies. Four other states – Minnesota, Ohio, Oregon and Washington – will take similar steps in coming weeks.

Administration officials touted the program by saying in addition to saving precious time and resources of local housing offices, it will also reduce expenses for taxpayers.

Federal estimates showed a total of more than 22,000 physical inspections across 10,485 federal subsidized properties annually – or in other words, more than 11,000 redundant inspections, said Tammye Treviño, administrator for Housing and Community Facilities Programs in USDA’s Rural Development Agency.

Donna McMillan, director of asset management at the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, says this is the quickest federal-state collaboration she's seen in nearly 30 years of public service.

In Michigan, a project financed by the housing agency, whose residents use HUD Section 8 housing vouchers, would require inspections by both entities.

Residents of those units would deal with the inconvenience of multiple inspections; owners of the units would have to coordinate with both agencies as they made requisite repairs; and the state and federal governments would wind up duplicating each other's efforts. "We want to make sure we're not wasting our state resources to double up on an inspection being done by some other agency," McMillan tells Governing.

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