Research Report Reforming the Inspections Process
A Necessary Step for a Stronger Housing Choice Voucher Program
Michael Stegman, Dennis Shea
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The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program is our nation’s most important housing assistance program, helping more than 2.3 million low-income families affordably rent homes in the private market. But the program’s effectiveness and reach are constrained by several significant challenges, including falling landlord participation, extended housing search periods, and declining voucher holder success rates. Most facets of the HCV program are under serious scrutiny inside and outside of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in attempts to find cost-effective ways to reverse the current program trajectory. Specifically, the role of HUD’s national housing quality standards (HQS) and its complementary inspection and enforcement regime are commonly cited as primary barriers to greater landlord participation. Because we could find no comprehensive analysis of these twin components of the HCV program to help program managers and policymakers fix their problems, this report attempts to fill that void by addressing several critical questions, the most important being whether the current inspection and enforcement regime is still necessary. We conclude that the current inspection regime that demands every single HCV unit be inspected in person before a lease can be executed and payments begin flowing is akin to using a bazooka to kill a gnat, as just 4 out of every 100 very low–income central city renters and fewer than 2 out of every 100 very low–income suburban renters live in severely inadequate units. Although a strong argument can be made that inspections are an anachronism, we provide a fuller set of policy options short of doing away with inspections entirely as ways to streamline operations, expand landlord participation, and promote greater voucher use, particularly in high-opportunity communities.

Research Areas Economic mobility and inequality Families Housing Neighborhoods, cities, and metros Race and equity
Tags Economic well-being Families with low incomes Federal housing programs and policies Housing affordability Housing subsidies Mobility
Policy Centers Housing Finance Policy Center
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