HUD Addresses Noncompliance with Lead Safe Housing Rule
A few months ago, HUD and its Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a report identifying the top management challenges facing the Department in 2020 and beyond. One of the broad categories identified was ensuring the availability of affordable housing that’s decent, safe, sanitary, and in good repair. Within this category, HUD says its most noteworthy safe housing challenges include addressing lead paint hazards and hazardous waste in public housing.
HUD has created a strategic goal to remove lead-based paint and other health and safety hazards from its housing sites. In 2019, however, investigations into New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) practices demonstrated the challenges HUD faces in implementing this goal. NYCHA had for years violated HUD and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lead paint safety regulations by failing to inspect apartments for lead paint hazards and failing to remediate peeling lead paint.
In a 2018 audit report, OIG found that HUD didn’t:
- Ensure that PHAs properly reported and mitigated cases involving children with lead contamination;
- Establish policies and procedures for PHAs reporting children with lead contamination; or
- Ensure that PHAs completed required lead-based paint inspections.
While Congress has conducted hearings on viable approaches to deal with these lead problems permanently, no solution has been identified. According to the report, OIG’s continuing work on the hazards of lead paint in public housing indicates that some property owners have disregarded the Lead Safe Housing Rules, with little attempt at compliance.
HUD Posts Training Materials
To combat noncompliance, HUD recently added training webinars and other resources to help owners review federal lead regulations and the Lead Safe Housing Rule (LSHR) for pre-1978 housing. These can be found at www.hudexchange.info/trainings/lead-safe-housing-rule.
In addition, HUD posted resources addressing the LSHR Amendment for public housing units, Housing Choice Voucher units, and Project-Based Voucher units. This amendment to the LSHR, which HUD published in January 2017, requires owners to respond promptly to cases of children under age 6 living in certain categories of HUD-assisted homes who have elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs).
With the amendment, HUD’s action level for lead in a young child’s blood was lowered from 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL) to 5. This change allows for a faster response when a young child is exposed to lead-based paint hazards in a HUD-assisted home, a key component of a primary prevention strategy.
According to the amendment, when a child under age 6 resides in HUD-assisted housing and has an elevated blood level, the housing provider must test the home and other potential sources of the child’s lead exposure within 15 days, and ensure that hazards from lead-based paint, dust, or soil are controlled within 30 days. The housing provider must also report the case to HUD so that HUD can ensure that follow-up is completed on time.
Review Site Reports for Lead Dust Amounts Above New Threshold
Last July, the EPA amended regulations regarding lead dust testing, and the regulations went into effect Jan. 6, 2020. This amendment significantly reduces the threshold for determining lead paint hazards from 40 micrograms to 10 micrograms per square foot on floors, and 250 micrograms to 100 micrograms per square foot on window sills.
These changes are likely to affect existing tests and reports for determining whether there are actionable levels of lead dust and lead paint hazards. Owners should check their existing lead-based paint reports to see if the reports identify areas with lead dust above the new thresholds but below the old ones. If so, owners should also consider performing new reports and pursuing new remediation.
What’s an Elevated Blood Lead Level (EBLL)?
A confirmed concentration of lead in whole blood of a child under the age of 6 years, equal to or greater than the concentration in the most recent guidance published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on recommending that an environmental intervention be conducted. As of May 2019, a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dl) or higher, is considered an EBLL.
What Actions Are Triggered by a Confirmed EBLL?
PHAs and owners must take action if a child under age 6 in federally assisted housing built before 1978 has an EBLL. Once a PHA or owner has been notified of a verified EBLL, the following steps are required.
- The PHA will immediately verify the EBLL report.
- The PHA will ensure a certified assessor performs an environmental investigation in the apartment within 15 days of the verified report.
- The PHA will notify the resident and other building residents of the results of the environmental investigation within 15 days of receiving the results.
- If the environmental investigation identified lead-based paint hazards, the PHA or owner will make all necessary repairs within 30 days. To protect the resident from further exposure to lead hazards in housing while the work is being done, the household may have to move out of the apartment temporarily.
- Once the repairs are complete, the apartment will be tested and certified to be lead-safe. The PHA will provide a “clearance examination report” that explains what was done and ask the resident to report any deteriorated paint or other problems with the work areas.
Top Management Challenges for HUD in 2020 and Beyond
Each year, in compliance with Public Law 106-531, the Reports Consolidation Act of 2000, HUD and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issue a report summarizing what they consider the most serious management challenges facing HUD. This report represents HUD OIG’s perspective on the top management challenges facing HUD in fiscal year 2020. The report can be found at www.hudoig.gov/reports-publications/top-management-challenges/top-management-challenges-facing-us-department-0.
OIG identified the following as the top management challenges:
- Managing HUD’s human capital -- fewer employees, significant reliance on contracted services.
- Ensuring the availability of affordable housing that’s decent, safe, sanitary, and in good repair.
- Protecting the mortgage insurance programs.
- Providing adequate monitoring and oversight of its operations and program participants.
- Administering disaster recovery assistance.
- Modernizing technology and the management and oversight of information technology.
- Instituting sound financial management.
- Ensuring ethical conduct.