HUD Not Fulfilling Responsibility To Eliminate Lead-Based Paint Hazard in Federal Housing

CED-81-31: Published: Dec 16, 1980. Publicly Released: Jan 14, 1981.

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GAO was asked to review the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) administration of its research and program responsibilities under the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act. This Act and subsequent amendments authorized HUD to conduct research on the nature and extent of childhood lead paint poisoning and to develop cost effective techniques for eliminating lead paint from houses. Although some evidence suggests that the incidence of lead poisoning in children is declining, an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 young children have undue amounts of lead in their bodies.

In its review, GAO found that HUD is not fully complying with many of its own regulations and procedures directed at eliminating the hazards of lead-based paint in federally assisted housing. It needs a new agenda for its research into the problem, better administrative procedures, and a stronger commitment to eliminating lead hazards in housing. Although 9 years and $9 million of HUD-sponsored research have yielded innovative lead paint abatement products and techniques, their high cost has prevented any of them from having a practical use. Moreover, several unresolved issues still exist regarding the responsibility of HUD to research the nature and extent of childhood lead paint poisoning. Finally, HUD regulations and procedures for eliminating lead paint hazards in housing contain many limitations, which include: (1) limiting its regulations to correcting only peeling or chipping paint; (2) inspecting and eliminating lead paint only when dwelling units change occupancy; (3) notifying tenants of lead paint hazards only in pre-1950 dwelling units; and (4) not clarifying the issue of whether or not the hazard elimination program is limited to pre-1950 housing.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HUD should establish a strong central monitoring office with the authority and resources to properly evaluate and report on program compliance. Program Assistant Secretaries should develop an adequate management reporting system on hazard inspection and elimination and tenant notification.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HUD should direct those Assistant Secretaries having programs subject to lead-based paint regulations to establish goals and priorities for carrying out HUD's lead-based paint responsibilities as part of an over-all department strategy for addressing lead-based paint hazards in HUD-associated housing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HUD should direct those Assistant Secretaries having programs subject to lead-based paint regulations to revise program instructions to assure that they are consistent, include appropriate enforcement provisions, and are understood by individuals responsible for carrying out lead-based paint regulations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HUD should assess the costs and benefits of alternative regulatory strategies in terms of creating regulatory language that not only fully satisfies the congressional mandate but also allows the most effective use of limited funds to eliminate lead paint hazards from HUD-assisted housing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HUD should direct those Assistant Secretaries having programs subject to lead-based paint regulations to take immediate steps to notify all appropriate HUD-associated housing tenants of the hazards of lead-based paint.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  6. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HUD should direct all Assistant Secretaries having lead-based paint programs to take steps to fully involve all offices in current and future program activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  7. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of HUD should direct the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research to develop a lead-based paint research agenda that represents the needs of all offices administering lead-based paint programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

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