Lead-Based Paint Poisoning:

Children in Section 8 Tenant-Based Housing Are Not Adequately Protected

RCED-94-137: Published: May 13, 1994. Publicly Released: May 13, 1994.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) enforcement of and compliance with federal lead safety laws and regulations as they apply to section 8 tenant-based housing, focusing on the: (1) effectiveness of HUD regulations for identifying lead-based paint hazards; (2) effectiveness of HUD regulations for protecting children with elevated lead blood levels that reside in section 8 tenant-based housing; and (3) applicability of the Lead-Based Poisoning Prevention Act to the section 8 tenant-based housing program.

GAO found that: (1) although the four housing authorities reviewed have complied with HUD requirements to conduct lead-based paint inspections, housing authorities are only required to inspect residences visually and do not regularly test for lead unless a child with elevated blood levels is known to reside in the residence; (2) HUD officials could not estimate the cost of testing section 8 residences or the extent that such testing would discourage landlords' participation in section 8 programs; (3) HUD officials believe that resource constraints have limited housing authorities' ability to enhance visual inspections with more conclusive paint testing; (4) federal regulations do not adequately protect children with elevated blood levels who live in section 8 residences; (5) 7 of the 11 residences tested by local health agencies contained lead-based paint hazards; (6) although housing authorities are required to test the paint in homes of children with elevated blood levels and take appropriate corrective action, public housing authorities do not know whether the tests are being done; (7) local health agencies do not routinely determine whether children with elevated levels reside in section 8 housing or notify the responsible housing authorities of the children's condition or testing results; (8) although the applicability of the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Act to section 8 housing is unclear, HUD plans to issue implementing regulations for section 8 housing; and (9) an amendment to the act would clarify HUD responsibility and provide it with clear policy guidelines for implementing the legislation.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Key professional staff on the Senate Housing Subcommittee left the Subcommittee. New professional staff are not interested in pursuing this issue at this time.

    Matter: To resolve uncertainty about the applicability of the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act, as amended in 1992, to the section 8 tenant-based housing assistance program--uncertainty created by inconsistencies between provisions of the act and statements in the legislative report for the 1992 amendments to the act--Congress may wish to consider amending the act to clarify its applicability to the section 8 tenant-based housing assistance programs. Specifically, Congress may wish to clarify section 302 of the act to indicate whether section 8 tenant-based housing is considered federally assisted housing under the act.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: HUD lost about 90 percent of its funding for lead-based paint abatement efforts. Therefore, the agency is no longer willing to conduct demonstration projects to determine the likely impacts of various hypothetical policies.

    Recommendation: To determine whether requiring more rigorous inspection and testing in section 8 tenant-based housing is practicable and whether such requirements are likely to affect landlords' participation in the section 8 program, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should conduct a demonstration program that draws on the work of the Task Force on Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction and Financing. This demonstration program should develop the information needed to: (1) estimate the cost of testing section 8 tenant-based housing for lead-based paint hazards; (2) assess the likely response of section 8 landlords to new requirements for such testing; and (3) recommend to Congress whether HUD regulations should be changed to reflect the demonstration program's findings.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In accordance with 24 CFR Ch. IX, Part 982, Subpart I, Section 982.401, paragraph (j)(8), prior to execution of the Housing Assistance Payment contract with a property owner participating in the Section 8 tenant-based program, the owner must inform the housing authority and the family of any knowledge of the presence of lead-based paint on the surfaces of the residential unit. This regulation substantially addresses the recommendation stated above.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that individuals receiving section 8 tenant-based assistance are obtaining safe housing as required and that children whose blood contains elevated levels of lead are protected from further exposure to lead-based paint hazards, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should require, as a condition for receiving housing assistance payments and annually renewing participation in a section 8 tenant-based assistance program, that a property owner notify the public housing authority if a local health agency finds that the property contains a lead-based paint hazard.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In accordance with 24 CFR Ch. IX, Part 982, Subpart I, Section 982.401, paragraph (j)(9)(i), the housing authority must attempt to obtain annually from local health agencies the names and addresses of children with identified EBLs and must annually match this information with the names and addresses of participants under this regulation and determine whether other pertinent HUD regulations apply to the conditions present. This regulation substantially addresses the recommendation stated above.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that individuals receiving section 8 tenant-based assistance are obtaining safe housing as required and that children whose blood contains elevated levels of lead are protected from further exposure to lead-based paint hazards, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should require public housing authorities to: (1) ask local health agencies for the addresses of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood; and (2) match these addresses with the addresses of section 8 tenant-based residences to determine whether HUD regulations should be implemented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

 

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