HUD spends $15 billion each year to subsidize 44,000 properties that are home to more than 4 million families. Last year, using state-of-the-art technology and performance indicators, HUD's newly established Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) began conducting the first complete inspection and assessment of federally subsidized housing. By the end of March 1999, REAC had inspected more than 4,000 multifamily properties and 750 public housing authorities (PHAs).
A new HUD report reviews the results from these initial inspections. A House in Order: Results From the First National Assessment of HUD Housing presents the first comprehensive data on the physical and financial conditions of public housing, along with the results of the first national survey of public housing residents.
According to the report, more than 80 percent of the public and multifamily housing properties assessed are in good or excellent physical condition. Physical inspection scores for the public housing authorities analyzed rank 87 percent as successful or high performers. Results for the multifamily housing properties inspected to date show that 83 percent are in good or excellent condition. In the region that includes the Northeast and Midwest, 73 percent of the buildings scored in the good or excellent range. The regions that cover the Southeast and West had even higher scores, with 87 percent and 82 percent, respectively, rating as good or excellent. Housing units for elderly and disabled people under HUD's Section 202 and Section 811 programs were in the best condition, with nearly 90 percent ranking as good or excellent.
Typical problems were minor, says the report. Three defects were the most common: walls and ceilings in need of repair or painting; damaged floors, countertops, or cabinets; and walkways and parking lots needing to be fixed. The most frequent serious deficiencies were damaged fixtures or appliances and plumbing leaks.
Based on the results from the survey of PHA residents, the report found that an overwhelming number of residents are satisfied with public housing. Seventy-five percent of residents were either satisfied or very satisfied with their dwelling units, while more than 60 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their development and their neighborhood. Nearly 75 percent felt safe in their home day or night, although only about 50 percent said that they felt safe outside of their buildings. Sixty-four percent of residents said they would recommend their public housing development to a friend or family member.
"By using the REAC ratings to shift its oversight away from good buildings and onto the poor performers, HUD can do more with less, decreasing the burden on its staff and encouraging good buildings to continue performing well," states the report. Since REAC provides HUD with complete and reliable information on the quality of housing it funds, HUD can apply rigorous and consistent standards to improve its housing. PHAs that rank as high performers will benefit from streamlined planning requirements, bonus points in applications for competitive funds, and other rewards.
The REAC data also allow HUD to take action against troubled properties and bad owners, explains the report. Health and safety issues identified during inspections are communicated to PHAs and multifamily owners on the spot along with requirements to fix the problems within a specified time. Serious health and safety deficiencies or fire safety hazards must be corrected immediately. While recommending that HUD refuse to subsidize multifamily properties in poor condition, the report states that "HUD can reward the best properties and housing authorities now that it knows which ones they are."
A House in Order: Results From the First National Assessment of HUD Housing is available free from HUD USER. Use the order form.