[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 86 (Wednesday, May 4, 2016)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 26759-26763]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-10460]



24 CFR Part 982

[Docket No. FR-5928-N-01]

Notice of Demonstration To Test Proposed New Method of Assessing 
the Physical Conditions of Voucher-Assisted Housing

AGENCY: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian 
Housing, HUD.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Through this document, HUD solicits comment on a demonstration 
designed to test a new method of assessing the physical condition of 
housing assisted by HUD vouchers (voucher-assisted housing). In the 
Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the act appropriating funds 
for HUD in Fiscal Year (FY 2016), Congress directed HUD to implement a 
single inspection protocol for public housing and voucher units. This 
demonstration would commence the process for implementing a single 
inspection protocol.

DATES: Comments Due Date: July 5, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Interested persons are invited to submit comments to the 
Office of the General Counsel, Regulations Division, Department of 
Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street SW., Room 10276, 
Washington, DC 20410-0500. Communications should refer to the above 
docket number and title and should contain the information specified in 
the ``Request for Comments'' section. There are two methods for 
submitting public comments.
    1. Submission of Comments by Mail. Comments may be submitted by 
mail to the Regulations Division, Office of General Counsel, Department 
of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street SW., Room 10276, 
Washington, DC 20410-0500. Due to security measures at all federal 
agencies, however, submission of comments by mail often results in 
delayed delivery. To ensure timely receipt of comments, HUD recommends 
that comments submitted by mail be submitted at least two weeks in 
advance of the public comment deadline.
    2. Electronic Submission of Comments. Interested persons may submit 
comments electronically through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at 
http://www.regulations.gov. HUD strongly encourages commenters to 
submit comments electronically. Electronic submission of comments 
allows the commenter maximum time to prepare and submit a comment, 
ensures timely receipt by HUD, and enables HUD to make comments 
immediately available to the public. Comments submitted electronically 
through the http://www.regulations.gov Web site can be viewed by other 
commenters and interested members of the public. Commenters should 
follow instructions provided on that site to submit comments 

    Note:  To receive consideration as public comments, comments 
must be submitted using one of the two methods specified above. 
Again, all submissions must refer to the docket number and title of 
the notice.

    No Facsimile Comments. Facsimile (fax) comments are not acceptable.
    Public Inspection of Comments. All comments and communications 
submitted to HUD will be available, for public inspection and copying 
between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays at the above address. Due to 
security measures at the HUD Headquarters building, an advance 
appointment to review the public comments must be scheduled by calling 
the Regulations Division at (202) 708-3055 (this is not a toll-free 
number). Copies of all comments submitted are available for inspection 
and downloading at http://www.regulations.gov.

Assessment Center, Office of Public and Indian Housing, Department of 
Housing and Urban Development, 550 12th Street SW., Suite 100, 
Washington DC 20410-4000; telephone number 202-475-8586 (this is not a 
toll-free number). Persons with hearing or speech impairments may 
contact this number via TTY by calling the toll-free Federal Relay 
Service at 800-877-8339.


I. Structure of the Notice

    The following four sections discuss the background through the 
solicitation of comments. Section II below provides background 
information on oversight of the Housing Choice Voucher inspection 
program and explains the origins of the Uniform Physical Condition 
Standards for Vouchers (UPCS-V), an alternative approach for ensuring 
safe, habitable voucher-assisted housing. In Section III, the notice 
explains the three main areas that will be evaluated during the 
demonstration, which are: The objective condition standards including a 
list of life threatening and emergency items that must be addressed, 
the revised information technology (IT) processes, and the new 
oversight approach. Also in Section III, HUD discusses the general 
public housing agency (PHA) participation criteria it will use to 
select a representative mix of volunteer PHAs. In Section IV, HUD 
describes the process by which HUD will assess the results of the 
demonstration. In the last section of this notice, Section V, HUD

[[Page 26760]]

solicits public comment generally as well as on several questions of 
specific interest.

II. Background

    HUD's Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program serves approximately 2.2 
million households nationwide. The HCV program is administered by PHAs 
at the State and local levels and allows participants the opportunity 
to rent from private landlords in the neighborhood of their choosing. 
The goal of the HCV program is to enable access to decent, safe and 
sanitary affordable housing for low-income families. In the 1970's HUD 
established housing quality standards (HQS) in accordance with the U.S. 
Housing Act of 1937 (1937 Act) (42 U.S.C. 1437 et seq.). Section 
8(o)(8)(B) of the 1937 Act (42 U.S.C. 1437f(o)(8)(B)), directs HUD to 
establish standards for safe and habitable housing. These standards are 
codified in HUD regulations at 24 CFR 982.401. PHAs use these standards 
to determine if housing meets the minimum criteria necessary for the 
safety and habitability of occupants assisted under the program.
    The HUD Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released several 
audit reports and evaluations that identified weakness in the HCV 
inspection program.\1\ These OIG reports and other factors led to the 
report of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Report 113-045, that 
accompanied the Senate bill for HUD's 2014 appropriations, and directed 
HUD to ``. . . move to a consistent inspection standard across housing 
assistance programs, as well as [for] oversight of Section 8 units.'' 
\2\ In response to this directive, HUD conducted a quality assurance 
review of HCV units using its current HQS inspection model.\3\ The 
results of these inspections showed that the current HQS protocol 
lacked objective, well-defined deficiency descriptions, was unable to 
capture granular unit conditions, and relied on a paper inspection 
form. In addition, there was an absence of modern health standards such 
as carbon monoxide detectors and sprinkler systems, and an absence of a 
universal list of life threatening or emergency deficiencies. HUD 
determined that these factors resulted in inconsistent application of 
HQS standards, and there was potential for inconsistent housing 
outcomes and exposure of families to health and safety hazards.

    \1\ See e.g., HUD OIG Reports: 2008-AT-003; 2012-BO-1005.
    \2\ See page 100 of https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-113srpt45/pdf/CRPT-113srpt45.pdf.
    \3\ See http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/public_indian_housing/reac/oed.

    At the conclusion of the quality control review, HUD accelerated 
the search for a replacement to the Housing Quality Standards, leading 
to the eventual development of UPCS-V. In the Joint Explanatory 
Statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, 
Public Law 114-113, approved December 18, 2015, Congress directed HUD 
to implement a single inspection protocol for public housing and 
voucher units.\4\ This demonstration would commence the process for 
implementing a single inspection protocol by soliciting PHAs to 
voluntarily move to the single inspection protocol, conduct field 
testing, and participate in oversight and monitoring activities related 
to the new standard. In addition to improving outcomes for families and 
aligning program standards, this demonstration will provide valuable 
feedback to HUD about how to efficiently and effectively implement 
UPCS-V at all PHAs. Congress has provided HUD with funding to improve 
its oversight of the HCV inspection program and to move the inspection 
standard for the HCV program to one that is consistent with other 
affordable housing programs and that incorporates modern health and 
safety practices.\5\

    \4\ See page 41 of Division L of the FY2016 Joint Explanatory 
Statement. See https://rules.house.gov/bill/114/hr-2029-sa.
    \5\ See Title II of Division K of the FY2015 Joint Explanatory 
Statement. See https://www.congress.gov/congressional-record/2014/12/11/house-section/article/H9307-1.

III. The Demonstration

A. Overview

    In response to Congressional direction and HUD's own goal to 
improve the effectiveness of the inspection of public and assisted 
housing while minimizing burdens, HUD is developing a new inspection 
and oversight approach called UPCS-V. UPCS-V incorporates housing 
health and safety constructs, concepts from the Uniform Physical 
Condition Standard (UPCS), codified in HUD regulations at 24 CFR 5.703, 
and HQS, codified at 24 CFR 982.401. The new UPCS-V will include 
deficiency definitions and decision criteria, and tailored standards 
and protocols to better meet HCV program needs. The UPCS protocol is 
currently recognized by industry stakeholders as the benchmark for 
government-assisted and affordable housing inspections. This 
Demonstration is the first step in implementing an aligned inspection 
protocol for public housing/multi-family housing and voucher programs, 
and will test the UPCS-V inspection model's ability to assess the 
physical condition of assisted housing, improve service delivery, 
enhance oversight and risk management capabilities, and better identify 
health and safety hazards in the home.

B. The New Inspection Model and Demonstration Protocols

    Under this Demonstration, HUD will test, for up to three years, 
with up to 250 PHAs, the UPCS-V model as a new method of assessing the 
physical condition of voucher-assisted housing.
    In addition to hands-on training and technical assistance that will 
be provided by HUD to participating PHAs, some additional benefits of 
participating in the Demonstration include the opportunity to provide 
input to HUD on further refining the UPCS-V standards and processes, 
and the ability to evaluate, test, and refine internal PHA systems and 
    There are three components to the Demonstration, each of which may 
run concurrently:
 Evaluation of Revised Inspection Model (UPCS-V)
 Data Standardization and Information Exchange
 Oversight and Performance Improvement
Component 1: Evaluation of the Revised Inspection Model (UPCS-V)
    For the past 17 years, HUD has used the UPCS protocol when 
conducting over 310,000 physical inspections of public housing (PH) and 
subsidized multifamily housing (MFH) developments, solidifying UPCS as 
the industry standard for government-assisted and affordable housing 
inspections. HUD leveraged its experience with UPCS and developed a 
product tailored to the objectives of the HCV program. The scope of the 
inspection, the procedural guidelines, and the individual deficiencies 
have been modified to emphasize those areas that present the highest 
risk of harm to the family living in the HCV assisted unit.
    UPCS-V seeks to utilize well-defined and objective deficiency 
descriptions that can be used consistently within and across PHAs. The 
following table summarizes some of the high-level similarities and 
differences between UPCS-V and HQS.

[[Page 26761]]

                 Item                         HQS             UPCS-V
Provides standardized list of           ...............               X
 deficiencies and measurable criteria.
Defined standardized list of Life       ...............               X
 Threatening and Emergency items......
Up-to-date health and safety standards  ...............               X
Designed as a unit-based inspection                  X                X
 standard for federally assisted units
Inspection standard aligned with other  ...............               X
 federally assisted programs..........
Pass/Fail results for all deficiencies               X                X
PHA ability to adopt HUD-approved                    X                X
Uniform inspector training and          ...............               X
Includes guidance through the use of    ...............               X
 decision trees that lead to more
 consistent observations..............
Captures level of severity for line     ...............               X
 item deficiencies....................
Unit and room acceptability criteria..               X                X
Standardized criteria for PHA           ...............               X
 submission of electronic inspection
 data to HUD..........................
Customized unit condition index to      ...............               X
 provide value added analytics of
 inspection data to PHAs and
Photo requirements for fail             ...............               X
Allow PHAs the use photo and document   ...............               X
 evidence to ensure all fail
 deficiencies have been mitigated.....

    Like UPCS, HUD anticipates that the new inspection model will 
enable a PHA inspector to more consistently identify and accurately 
describe those items that pose a risk to tenant health and safety in 
the home. The new inspection model developed by HUD has updated 
standards and a well-defined list of itemized deficiencies enabling 
inspectors to make more accurate and objective decisions on a 
consistent basis. The new inspection model differs from the current HQS 
inspection model in that it incorporates standards based on UPCS and 
uses a classification system that collects a more detailed level of 
data resulting in a better representation of the condition of the unit.
    The new inspection protocol will capture levels of severity for 
line item deficiencies on an escalating scale of severity (L1, L2, L3). 
The classifications of minor (L1), major (L2) or significant (L3) would 
be used to determine the level of severity for each deficiency and to 
develop a unit condition index score. When considered in conjunction 
with a Pass/Fail determination, the unit condition index score would 
give residents, owners, PHAs, and HUD better insight into the overall 
condition of the unit. In addition to capturing a level of severity for 
all deficiencies, HUD will create a minimum, standardized list of life 
threatening items that PHAs participating in the demonstration must 
treat as ``24 Hour'' deficiencies.
    When an inspector finds Life Threatening or Emergency (LTE) 
deficiencies during an inspection, the inspector is to provide a list 
of such deficiencies to the responsible party--either tenant or owner--
for repair within 24 hours. A specific set of deficiencies that must be 
addressed within 24 hours is not currently defined in HQS. UPCS-V will 
provide a list of LTE categories to use when inspecting HCV units 
during the Demonstration. PHAs will be responsible for additional items 
to this list.

       General Categories of Life Threatening and Emergency Items
                            Life threatening
[ballot] Natural or Liquid Petroleum (LP) gas leak or fumes
[ballot] Electrical problems which could result in shock or fire
[ballot] Inoperable/missing smoke or carbon monoxide detector
[ballot] Gas/Oil Fired Water Heater/HVAC with missing or misaligned
[ballot] Fire extinguishers expired or missing
[ballot] Building lacks an alternate means of exit in case of fire/
 blocked egress
[ballot] Missing entry door
[ballot] The HVAC system fails to meet established criteria for
 emergency heating or cooling with consideration for ambient temperature
 range and ventilation
[ballot] Absence of at least one functioning sink and toilet in unit
[ballot] No working refrigerator
[ballot] No working stove/oven or other method of heating/preparing food
[ballot] Waterlogged/damaged ceilings, floor or walls in imminent danger
 of potential collapse
[ballot] Major plumbing leaks or flooding
[ballot] Utilities not in service (e.g., electricity, gas (LP/natural),
 water or oil)
[ballot] No running hot water
[ballot] Structural integrity condition where the building, or a
 component of the building, is in imminent danger of potential collapse

    With the inclusion of a level of severity classification and a 
standardized list of life threatening items, the inspection report will 
be able to provide a more detailed description of the unit.
    As part of the Demonstration, HUD will conduct extensive field 
tests of the standards and protocol with a representative sample of HCV 
units to verify that the UPCS-V model consistently, accurately, and 
objectively evaluates housing conditions. The feasibility of 
implementing the protocol will also be evaluated to identify potential 
barriers that would prevent PHAs from successfully implementing UPCS-V. 
After HUD's initial round of testing has been completed, PHAs 
participating in this component of the

[[Page 26762]]

Demonstration will conduct a portion, depending on the PHA's 
capabilities, of up to 100 percent of their required HCV physical 
inspections using UPCS-V in place of HQS. This component will continue 
throughout the up to three-year duration of the Demonstration until HUD 
has sufficient information to evaluate the success of PHAs using UPCS-V 
and assurance that the new method is achieving consistent results.
Component 2: Data Standardization and Information Exchange of UPCS-V 
    UPCS-V is designed as an electronic inspection model. This 
component of the Demonstration will test the transition from a paper-
based to an electronic inspection approach. Initially, the UPCS-V 
inspections will be performed electronically using HUD-provided 
software, and all inspections will include photos of the most severe 
deficiencies. For PHAs with their own IT systems, including PHA-
produced or provided inspection software, HUD also will test the 
feasibility of different methods of transferring physical inspection 
information between PHA and HUD systems.
    PHAs participating in this component will be required to document 
and submit to HUD all UPCS-V inspections electronically. HUD 
anticipates that it will then review, analyze, and where appropriate, 
transform the inspection data into value-added information, such as a 
scoring report, healthy homes report, and relative risk reports, for 
electronic transmission back to the PHA for its use.
    PHAs participating in this component of the Demonstration and that 
use non-HUD provided software will be required to have and maintain the 
information technology resources and support necessary to interface 
with HUD's systems using industry standard file transfer protocols such 
as Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Representational State 
Transfer (REST) standards. Some data exchange may be via transfer of 
flat files.
Component 3: Oversight and Performance Improvement
    In this component of the Demonstration, HUD seeks to ensure PHAs 
are consistently identifying substandard housing, remedying such cases 
appropriately and in a timely manner, and accurately reporting HCV 
unit-based inspection outcomes to HUD. Selected PHAs will be required 
to participate in quality assurance and internal controls reviews, 
technical assistance, and training activities. As part of the 
Demonstration, HUD will analyze PHAs' capacity, competencies, 
inspection processes and systems that are in place to effectively 
manage and evaluate HCV units as decent, safe, and sanitary. Further, 
HUD will test the capacity of the UPCS-V model to identify properties 
that are at risk of falling into non-compliance before the next 
regularly scheduled biennial inspection.
    To develop an inspector performance baseline, HUD seeks to 
determine the acceptable variation between inspectors. HUD will conduct 
quality assurance inspections on HCV units to ensure inspector 
adherence to UPCS-V inspection standards and provide technical 
assistance where needed. HUD also will test both PHA and its own 
management controls to provide reasonable assurance that the process 
for planning, organizing, directing, and controlling the HCV unit-based 
inspection program will meet the requirements prescribed by UPCS-V.

C. Selection Criteria and General Participation Requirements

General Participation Requirements
    To participate in this Demonstration, a PHA must administer a 
housing choice voucher program. PHAs participating in any aspect of the 
Demonstration will be required to participate in focus groups, 
conference calls, and training sessions on policies and procedures. HUD 
will train each participating PHA's inspectors, administrators, and 
quality control staff on the new inspection protocol, including how to 
use the inspection software. The PHAs will be responsible for 
scheduling inspections with all the participants, assigning inspectors, 
and conducting inspections. The PHA must conduct at least 10 
inspections per week, and the geographic spread of those inspections 
should be such that 90 percent of inspections are accessible within a 
30 mile (or 1 hour) driving range.
    If selected, the PHA must participate in the Demonstration 
throughout the duration of the testing period for at least one (1) 
calendar year with the possibility of an extension, as determined by 
HUD, for a maximum total of three (3) years. PHAs that participate will 
also need to provide an internet connected, internet operating system 
(iOS) or Android based electronic handheld device (smart phone or 
tablet) for each PHA staff inspector participating with capability to 
download the required HUD-provided inspection software.
Selection Criteria
    All PHAs must meet, at minimum, the general participation 
requirements described above. The strategic objectives for the 
Demonstration are for HUD to identify a diverse set of participants 
that will be representative of the different types of PHAs, properties 
and tenants found nationwide. HUD will use the following criteria to 
consider PHAs that have expressed an interest in participating in the 
Demonstration to ensure that participants represent the universe of 
PHAs that run HCV programs.
    Participants will be selected based on the characteristics of the 
organization (PHA) and the type of properties and tenants it 
    1. Characteristics of the PHA:
     Is the PHA a local or state agency?
     What percentage of HQS inspections are conducted annually? 
     What percentage of the HCV housing stock is urban and what 
percentage is rural?
     What percentage of the PHAs inspections are HCV 
     What is the number of monthly HCV inspections conducted?
    2. Characteristics of the Properties & Tenants:
     What is the number of HCV voucher holders?
     What is the average rent amount?
     What is the percentage of PHA's HCV program that is 
Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH), Family Unification Program 
(FUP), and Non-Elderly Disabled (NED) participants?
     What is the average HCV family size?
     What type of housing is leased by HCV participants (single 
family, apartment, condo, high-rise, row house, duplex, townhouse, 
     What is the average age of the housing stock?
     What is the HCV tenant mix (by age, disability, elderly, 
family type, children, income level/hap amount)?
    The criteria are designed to capture the variation in PHAs and 
market characteristics that could affect the implementation of UPCS-V. 
Depending on the applications for participation received and the 
characteristics of the PHAs applying, the criteria may be adjusted to 
more accurately represent the diversity of PHAs. Not all 250 
participants may be selected in the first round of testing. 
Accordingly, as the Demonstration proceeds, HUD may expand the number 
of participating PHAs, revise the selection criteria, or both, to 
reflect HUD's experience in implementing the Demonstration.

[[Page 26763]]

IV. Evaluating the Demonstration

    The Demonstration will provide HUD insight into the UPCS-V model, 
including its ability to expand HUD's oversight and risk management 
capabilities through a reliable, repeatable inspection process that 
better identifies health and safety risks to families, before 
implementing such a program nationwide. The Demonstration is 
anticipated to begin 60 days following the date of publication of this 
notice, with PHAs being added on a rolling basis until a representative 
sample has been reached. At the conclusion of the demonstration, HUD 
will assess its success and determine whether to implement UPCS-V on a 
permanent basis throughout the country.
    In the evaluation of the Demonstration, HUD will assess such 
factors as whether the use of the new UPCS-V protocol produces (1) more 
consistent and accurate results, (2) data standardization and a 
reliable method for information exchange, and (3) increased oversight 
and administration of the HCV Program. The demonstration also will 
review the feasibility of a PHA to implement the UPCS-V protocol, a 
factor HUD considers necessary for an accurate evaluation of the 
Demonstration's success.

V. Solicitation of Public Comment

    In accordance with section 470 of the Housing and Urban-Rural 
Recovery Act of 1983 (42 U.S.C. 3542), HUD is seeking comment on the 
Demonstration. Section 470 provides that HUD may not begin a 
demonstration program not expressly authorized by statute until a 
description of the demonstration program is published in the Federal 
Register and a 60-day period expires following the date of publication, 
during which time HUD solicits public comment and considers the 
comments submitted. HUD has established a public comment period of 60 
days. The public comment period provided allows HUD the opportunity to 
consider those comments during the 60-day period, and be in a position 
to commence implementation of the demonstration following the 
conclusion of the 60-day period.
    While HUD solicits comment on all aspects of the Demonstration, HUD 
specifically solicits comment on the following:
    1. HUD is considering selecting for participation only PHAs that do 
not utilize contract inspectors. Are there any instances where an 
exception to this criterion might be useful?
    2. Will utilizing commercial, off-the-shelf hardware, such as 
internet connected tablets or smartphones, reduce the barriers to 
participation for PHAs as opposed to having PHAs use more specific 
devices such as those required for other HUD UPCS inspections?
    3. Are there other PHA characteristics that HUD should consider in 
selecting PHAs to participate in the demonstration?
    4. Are there other revisions outside of the UPCS criteria that HUD 
should consider when moving toward a single inspection protocol?
    HUD requests that PHAs interested in participating in the 
Demonstration notify HUD by the public comment deadline for this 
Demonstration notice by emailing HUD at [email protected], and providing 
the PHA name, PHA address, contact name, contact phone number, and 
email address.

     Dated: April 28, 2016.
Lourdes Castro Ram[iacute]rez,
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing.
[FR Doc. 2016-10460 Filed 5-3-16; 8:45 am]