HUD Announces Environmental Justice Initiative
The HUD Inspector General recently launched an initiative to advance environmental justice in HUD-assisted housing. In a statement, Inspector General Rae Oliver Davis said, “My office is prioritizing oversight work that promotes safe, affordable housing by reducing environmental and public health hazards in HUD housing. . . We are committed to holding housing providers accountable for complying with environmental laws and regulations to protect the health of low-income households and vulnerable populations, and we will use every tool available to combat environmental crime and injustice in housing.”
HUD’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is prioritizing the following oversight objectives to advance environmental justice in HUD housing:
- Ensuring PHAs, owners, contractors, and inspectors properly identify lead hazards and use safe work practices to reduce and prevent lead exposure and poisoning in HUD housing. HUD OIG reported recently that HUD is challenged in overseeing PHAs’ efforts to reduce lead-based paint hazards in public housing units, and that HUD largely relies on PHAs to self-certify that they’re in compliance with HUD’s Lead Safe Housing Rule. The office also found that opportunities exist to improve HUD’s processes for monitoring children with elevated blood lead levels in public housing.
- Ensuring owners fulfill their obligations to provide housing units that are decent, safe, and sanitary, and make necessary repairs to units in a timely and safe manner. HUD OIG says its staff is assisting HUD in bringing enforcement actions that result in significant penalties for landlords who breach this duty.
- Fighting financial fraud schemes that exploit vulnerable populations relying on HUD housing assistance, such as owners who overcharge rent or housing fees. HUD OIG says these financial fraud schemes occur when owners charge HUD-assisted tenants more than other tenants or when owners demand tenants pay rent or utilities fees beyond what was agreed to in their lease or be evicted. These fraud schemes reduce the number of families that HUD can serve. HUD OIG says it will continue to pursue these matters with the Department of Justice to bring justice to those victimized by these schemes.