Ohio HFA Reports on Health Issues Associated with Inspection Frequency Changes
The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) recently released a report that examines the health implications of a proposed policy to align affordable housing inspections. Physical inspections of affordable rental housing communities are a key mechanism to assure that the properties meet quality and safety standards. Given the correlation between housing and health, the report focuses on the efficiency of inspections, housing quality related to the alignment of physical inspection policies, and the potential health impacts on vulnerable residents.
The report complements an ongoing effort led by the White House Domestic Policy Council and its interagency Rental Policy Working Group (RPWG) established in 2010. According to HUD, RPWG’s coordinated effort has focused on reducing costs and promoting administrative efficiencies. As a part of this effort, one of the recommendations of the RPWG was to decrease the number of duplicative housing inspections performed on the same property by multiple federal agencies.
In 2011, Ohio joined Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, and Oregon in a physical inspection pilot led by the RPWG to test the feasibility of conducting a single, recurring physical inspection that would satisfy all agencies’ inspection requirements. Additional state housing agencies will join the pilot this year to provide further input.
While reducing affordable housing inspections may make sense financially, the report found that there are serious health implications for residents. Research has shown that living in poorly maintained housing contributes to asthma, chronic disease, obesity, depression, and anxiety. The prevalence of these health problems is higher in affordable housing communities than in similar market-rate, multifamily housing communities. The report includes several key findings:
- The prevalence of specific health-related violations (such as fire, pests, mold, appliances, air quality, ground fault circuit interrupter, accessibility, plumbing, and trip hazard) varied by funding agency, project size, and project age.
- Properties inspected by more than one funding agency frequently found the same housing quality issues.
- Property managers’ maintenance practices appear to vary and impact their ability to identify health-related housing quality issues in the absence of inspections.
- During interviews, property managers and residents identified physical inspections as an impetus for reporting housing maintenance issues.
Based upon these findings, the following recommendations were developed to minimize the negative health impacts of the proposed policy:
- Implement a single standard across agencies, which is most likely to find health-related quality and safety problems to optimize health. A standardized physical inspection tool will increase consistency in reporting and noncompliance remediation, which will improve health.
- Establish ongoing training to increase the quality of physical inspection reports and to raise awareness of housing-related health issues among inspectors.
- Develop and implement a risk-based inspection agenda that focuses resources, streamlines inspection schedules based on housing and tenant characteristics, and is protective of adverse exposures and health.