Federally Assisted Housing:

Condition of Some Properties Receiving Section 8 Project-Based Assistance Is Below Housing Quality Standards

T-RCED-94-273: Published: Jul 26, 1994. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 1994.

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Stanley J. Czerwinski
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GAO discussed the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) section 8 project-based assisted housing programs, focusing on: (1) whether section 8 subsidized properties meet HUD housing quality standards; (2) whether HUD is effectively using its enforcement tools to ensure that the assisted properties are adequately maintained; and (3) actions HUD or Congress could take to resolve poorly maintained properties. GAO noted that: (1) some section 8 properties violate HUD housing quality standards, but HUD does not know the full extent of properties in poor physical condition; (2) rents for some distressed section 8 properties are equal to or exceed those of better maintained properties in the same area; (3) HUD has used its enforcement tools sparingly or inconsistently because of poor management information systems, the lack of staff, and ineffective oversight of subsidized properties; (4) more severe enforcement of housing standards could displace poor tenants and expose HUD to significant additional costs and the loss of appropriated funds; (5) although HUD has initiatives underway to overcome some limitations in its section 8 enforcement, it does not have an immediate action plan to assist tenants at the most severely distressed properties or to improve living conditions at other properties; and (6) legislative proposals provide HUD with greater flexibility in dealing with section 8 properties, but their interaction with existing laws raise implementation issues.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As part of its 2020 Management Reform Plan, HUD created a Real Estate Assessment Center to obtain information on the physical condition of its multifamily housing portfolio, including properties that receive Section 8 project-based assistance from HUD. The Center's inspections are aimed at ensuring that the housing provided is decent, safe, sanitary, and in good repair. As of April 12, 2000, initial inspections had been performed at about 26,500 properties or about 92 percent of the properties in HUD's multifamily portfolio. After a inspection is completed, the property's inspection score and observed deficiencies are summarized in a report that is sent to the property owner and the appropriate HUD program office so that corrective actions can be taken. The specific corrective actions required depend, in part, on the property's physical inspection score. Properties that receive physical inspection scores of 30 or below (out of 100) are referred to HUD's Departmental Enforcement Center for evaluation and enforcement action, as appropriate.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should begin immediately to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the very poor physical conditions under which some families supported by Section 8 project-based assistance are living. As part of this strategy, HUD should, through the use of its field staff: (1) promptly identify all Section 8 assisted properties with severe physical problems and offer affected tenants temporary assistance to relocate to safe and decent housing; (2) systematically notify owners of the problems identified; and (3) take appropriate enforcement actions in cases in which owners do not bring their properties into compliance with the housing quality standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: HUD has recently unveiled two innovative, performance measurement-driven programs--Section 8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) and Public Housing Management Assessment Program (PHMAP). It has done this in the midst of a comprehensive budgetary reassessment and organizational restructuring. Further program efforts to address the very poor physical conditions of project-based properties must reasonably await resolution of the larger issue of the future size and structure of HUD as an executive agency.

    Recommendation: To the extent that budgetary or legislative constraints prevent HUD from addressing these conditions, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should provide Congress with an assessment of the resources and legislative changes the Department needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development


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