There are numerous differences between NSPIRE and the predecessor inspection protocols – UPCS and HQS. Housing Quality Standards (HQS) were used for “Results Based” Inspections and UPCS Inspections were “Risk Based” inspections. A risk-based inspection takes a sampling of results and determines what risk may be present on the entire property and the owner’s general operation. REAC inspection used these risk ratings as a predictive indicator of whether or not there were likely more significant issues at a property. In comparison, HQS inspections were used to create a punch list for property owners of items that needed to be corrected to participate in a HUD-funded program.
The fundamental difference between those two approaches was what happens with the results of an inspection. For risk-based inspections, the risk rating dictated whatever next steps were to occur – which often included no follow-up if the risk was relatively low. Over the years, this approach has led to uneven results on REAC Inspections. In a 2018 Audit of REAC by the Office of the Inspector General, the auditors stated,
“We found that REAC could improve its inspection processes and controls related to the certification and monitoring of its contracted inspectors and its public housing units’ physical inspection processes. Specifically, REAC did not always ensure that (1) contract inspectors met requirements, (2) database system controls functioned properly, and (3) it verified the accuracy of sampled units for public housing authorities. These conditions occurred because REAC either did not follow its procedures or did not have procedures in place for parts of its inspection process. As a result, REAC did not always have the assurance that it (1) made the most effective and efficient use of its resources when training and certifying inspectors, (2) protected its database system data from unauthorized access and use, and (3) had accurate unit selections.”
Conversely, on HUD HQS Inspections, the results were the only thing that mattered, and the inspections were rarely used to affect long-lasting change. Landlords would frequently wait for the inspection results to tell them what to do, what they had to fix, and what they didn’t. This often resulted in landlords only doing a minimal amount to ensure a safe living environment for residents.
The fundamental difference between HQS and UPCS with NSPIRE is that it combines the aims of a “Risk-Based” approach of using results to encourage better day-to-day compliance and a “Results-Based” approach which aims to see the issues corrected in a timely and professional manner. This new hybrid approach aims to ensure a better living environment for residents that is free of hazardous conditions and meets essential building standards.