Recently, HABC Senior Manager of Administrative Services, William Peach provided an update on the HUD REAC Inspections to the Maryland Department of the Environment, Lead Poisoning Prevention Commission.
He began his presentation by providing a historical perspective of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City; and corrected any misconceptions by Commission members that HABC is a city agency – it is not. It is funded and regulated by Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a US Federal Agency. As the fifth largest public housing authority in the United States, HABC currently owns 7,000 public housing units in 13 development sites and various scattered sites. Including the Housing Choice Voucher Program, HABC serves 19,000 HABC-funded households.
HABC has been a strong partner and proponent in ensuring that its dwelling units are lead free and in full compliance with all State and Federal requirements. The primary evaluations are conducted using Uniform Physical Condition Standard (UPCS) which ensures that housing is decent, safe, sanitary and in good repair. Beginning July, 2019 for two-year demonstration, a pilot program in Region 3, which Maryland is part of, called NSPIRE (National Standard Policies for Inspection of Real Estate), the UPCS standard has been changed from emphasizing property curb appeal and appearance, to a new model with emphasis on living conditions and functionality.
The Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) Inspection assigns a score to the overall property condition. These inspections are broader than just lead testing and abatement and includes: ensuring that HABC maintenance staff and asset housing managers being trained and certified; a sample physical inspection which provides a snapshot of the property’s physical condition; recording the existence and the severity of reportable deficiencies according to preset criteria – such as elevators maintained in working condition, fire suppression systems, exterior brick work, trash and rodent control- both interior and exterior, lead and mold remediation.
Despite declines in federal funding for maintenance needs, HABC continues to improve its REAC scores. This has been accomplished by holding regular maintenance review meeting with site managers and staff, working cooperatively with other city agencies; maximizing available funding by directing it to maintenance needs most negatively impacting REAC scores, having an independent consultant conduct preventive maintenance inspections of all units targeting needs that impact REAC scores and writing work orders to address the needs identified.
Current monthly expenditure for lead inspections is approximately $27,000 per month to service between 65-70 units per month as they turn over. Additionally, a HUD program called Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) provides public housing authorities a way to rehabilitate or repair units without additional money from the government. HABC joined forces with private developers to use private funds to purchase the properties and rehabilitate/repair/improve units. In return the developers receive government tax incentives and rental income from the properties.
To date, HABC has converted 19 developments to RAD (12 high rise, 4 mid-rise and 3 lo-rise developments)– a total of 3200 units, with more planned. These upgrades and this preservation of affordable housing would not be possible without RAD.
Mr. Peach’s presentation was very well received with questions only addressing the health of the tenants and the smoke cessation programs. Neither program is part of the REAC inspection program, but Mr. Peach assured the Board that both are going well, with a confirmation from a Health Department representative that the Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Health and HABC will address these issues when it is completed.