NSPIRE News: September 23, 2020
NSPIRE in the Time of COVID

NSPIRE in the Time of COVID – a representation of virtual information in the form of workshops, webinars, webcasts, and websites.

In January of 2020, few could have predicted the reality that would be upon us in just a few months: stay-at-home-orders, quarantines, and a sudden and unanticipated shift to working from home. Like other organizations, HUD had to quickly adapt to this new reality. In the time of COVID, every government agency has faced challenges both common and unique. One of HUD’s unique challenges has been how to continue the development and testing of NSPIRE, the National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate, while maintaining the physical distance recommended to protect HUD employees and residents alike. HUD’s roadmap for developing, testing, and ultimately implementing NSPIRE initially included plans for many in-person engagements, including workshops, listening sessions, symposiums, presentations, and property inspections to provide insight into how NSPIRE inspections and scoring would work in the field. Putting NSPIRE on hold during the pandemic wasn’t an option; HUD had to quickly find a way to meet NSPIRE objectives despite the limitations.

Among HUD’s concerns was getting the input and feedback of the housing community and all who would ultimately be affected by NSPIRE—from public housing authorities to property owners and agents to inspectors to residents. In place of planned in-person events, HUD has implemented virtual events to bring these important voices together with the NSPIRE development team. An unanticipated benefit of this digital approach has been that more voices will be able to speak, while more HUD ears have been able to listen. Through this virtual approach, fewer resources are required to host an online event than to host in-person, so more events are possible, and more HUD staff members can attend. Early workshops have focused primarily on the NSPIRE standards specifically, allowing HUD to delve into the details of individual standards. The hour-long sessions have allowed knowledgeable professionals to dive into and discuss every aspect of the emerging NSPIRE standards, including reviewing rationales and considering the clarity of the language for deficiency definitions and criteria, approaches to observation and the inspection process, and the severity of deficiencies and their impact on resident health and safety. HUD has also begun conducting resident-focused workshops designed to bring residents into the NSPIRE development process.

In addition to virtual workshops, HUD has been able to employ other digital approaches to meet other objectives of its NSPIRE program. The NSPIRE Standards team has delivered online presentations to a wide range of audiences at housing industry annual meetings, as well as at scientific institutions such as the National Institute of Health and Georgetown University. Webcasts and live webinars have taken the place of in-person presentations and events to educate stakeholders and industry on NSPIRE. To date, webcasts on the NSPIRE Demonstration Volunteer Property Benefits, NSPIRE Standards, and an overview of NSPIRE for PHAs and POAs have been released. Many more webcasts and live webinars are in the works and will be published to the NSPIRE website in the coming months.

On July 30th, HUD finalized and released Version 1.3 of the NSPIRE standards. Feedback on the NSPIRE standards is being accepted online, with all online versions of the standards including easy mechanisms for professionals and residents alike to weigh in. Explicit instructions on how to provide feedback are available on the website, to make sure anyone who has input can deliver it. Additionally, HUD encourages all those interested in NSPIRE who may have questions or comments to continue to visit HUD’s NSPIRE website or to contact the NSPIRE Information Center at NSPIRE@HUD.gov.

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