Congress Questions HUD, Providers on Deadly Fires

Legislation | January 13, 2022 | by Linda Couch

On January 13, House Committee on Financial Services Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), and several members of the Committee, including Representatives Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Madeleine Dean (D-PA), sent letters to HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, as well as to New York and Philadelphia housing authorities, local officials, and property owners following the two fire-related tragedies that occurred in the last week.

On January 13, House Committee on Financial Services Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), and several members of the Committee, including Representatives Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Madeleine Dean (D-PA), sent letters to HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, as well as to New York and Philadelphia housing authorities, local officials, and property owners following the two fire-related tragedies that occurred in the last week.

 

These fires took the lives of residents, including children, living in federally assisted housing located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the Bronx, New York. The fires have put a spotlight on the condition, inspection, and ongoing maintenance of HUD-assisted housing.

 

The Philadelphia fire took place in an apartment building managed by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. In the case of the Bronx fire, 76 project-based vouchers were concentrated in the Twin Parks Northwest high-rise, which is a privately-owned apartment complex.

 

In the letter to HUD Secretary Fudge, Chairwoman Waters and the Committee members said, “The property where the fire occurred in Philadelphia last received a Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) score of 33 out 100 during a 2017 inspection which also found life threatening and fire safety violations. The property has not received a follow-up REAC inspection since then. Please provide additional information on the following issues:

  • When a HUD-assisted property receives a failing REAC score, does HUD have any policies in place for accountability?
  • What is HUD doing to ensure more frequent REAC inspections of failing properties?
  •  Of all HUD-assisted properties, how many received a failing score during their latest REAC inspection?
  • What percent of the total HUD-assisted portfolio does this represent?
  • Where are these properties located and are any of them geographically concentrated in certain communities?"

“In Philadelphia, one of the affected families included 14 members living in a 4-bedroom home and were on a waiting list for a 6-bedroom unit. How does HUD, including FHEO, work with PHAs to ensure families have access to housing that adequately accommodates the size of their household?,” the Chairwoman and Committee members also ask in the letter.

Further, the letter asks, “During the coronavirus pandemic, HUD instituted a pause on inspections from March 2020 through June 2021. What is HUD doing to immediately address the backlog of inspections and ensure resident safety?”

LeadingAge has supported a safe return of HUD physical inspections since the Real Estate Assessment Center’s pause. LeadingAge also supports the House-passed but Senate-stalled Build Back Better Act, which would invest $65 billion in the nation's public housing stock as well as $1.45 billion for the preservation and improvement of HUD multifamily housing (the Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, Section 202, and Section 811 portfolios).

Read the letters here.