HUD Must Ensure Households Have Sufficient Supply of Safe Drinking Water
Catalyst: As part of the fiscal year 2019 audit plan, HUD’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit into HUD’s oversight of lead in the water of multifamily housing units. The objective was to determine whether HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs had sufficient policies, procedures, and controls to ensure that households living in multifamily housing units had a sufficient supply of safe drinking water.
Findings: HUD auditors found that the Office of Multifamily Housing Programs did not have sufficient policies, procedures, and controls to ensure that households living in multifamily housing units had a sufficient supply of safe drinking water.
Multifamily sites were served by public water systems that reported levels of lead above the Environmental Protection Agency’s lead action level. However, HUD had limited requirements concerning lead in the drinking water of multifamily housing units and didn’t require multifamily property owners or management agents to take action regarding the potential for lead in the drinking water. These weaknesses occurred because HUD relied on the EPA to ensure that public water systems provided water that was safe to drink. As a result, HUD lacked assurance that households living in multifamily housing units had a sufficient supply of safe drinking water.
The auditors pointed out that in response to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., HUD’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Housing and Voucher Programs and the former Deputy Assistance Secretary for Multifamily Housing issued a joint memorandum stating that HUD was in the process of drafting a notice that would provide further guidance on the Housing Quality Standards and Uniform Physical Condition Standards on water supply.
But at the time of the investigation, HUD hadn’t yet issued a notice, and HUD’s Office of Multifamily Programs hadn’t provided documentation to auditors to support that it was working on policies, guidance, controls, or actions specifically related to lead in the water of multifamily housing units.
The report points out, however, that HUD is drafting a proposed rule for the implementation of the National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE) in which HUD plans to include a description of a water building system.
Recommendations: Auditors recommend that HUD craft procedures to be alerted when a water system exceeds lead safety levels and to inform property owners and managers of actions to take. In addition, HUD OIG recommends that the Director of Multifamily Asset Management and Portfolio Oversight develop and implement an action plan that includes sufficient policies, procedures, and controls that address households living in multifamily housing units having a sufficient supply of safe drinking water.
- HUD Audit 2020-CH-0005