Housing Leased to Lower Income Persons:

Better Federal Guidance and Management Could Improve Quality

CED-80-7: Published: Oct 30, 1979. Publicly Released: Oct 30, 1979.

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Although the section 8 "existing housing" program managed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided decent, safe, and sanitary housing to many lower income people, a large number of homes leased under the program violate federal housing quality standards. Accompanied by HUD inspectors, GAO inspected 160 section 8 units (apartments, single-family homes, and mobile homes) administered by 16 public housing agencies under the jurisdiction of 5 HUD field offices in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, and Massachusetts.

About 42 percent of the homes contained an average of three substandard conditions. These conditions included: dangerous walks and steps; inadequate heat and electrical wiring; dangerously deteriorated floors, walls, and ceilings; and inoperative or unlockable windows and exterior doors. Four weaknesses in the guidance provided by HUD to housing agencies contributed to the leasing of substandard housing: federal housing quality standards are not always clear and comprehensive; housing authority inspection and approval practices are inadequate; the need for housing, tenant location preferences, and production concerns are given higher priority than housing quality; and landlords and/or tenants inadequately maintain leased housing. Program managers at headquarters have not been assigned specific responsibilities or held accountable for ensuring the quality of the houses leased under the program.

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