Remote Video Inspections Move Forward
On November 12, 2020, HUD issued guidance on the use of Remote Video Inspection (RVI) technology by Public Housing Authorities that participate in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. The public notice outlines considerations and best practices for conducting an RVI, an option HUD is also evaluating for other HUD programs. Under certain circumstances, PHAs may now choose to employ RVI technology as a part of their protocols for voucher inspections.
“During this unprecedented time in our nation’s history, my PHA was searching for answers on how to comply with the inspection requirements of the Housing Choice Voucher Program while keeping employees, property owners/landlords, and participants safe,” said Edwin Tharp, Executive Director of the Mansfield Metropolitan Housing Authority. “In considering options, one solution that seemed to make a lot of sense was to offer remote video inspections. The idea gained momentum by other PHAs looking for similar options; then HUD got on board looking for ways to overcome the COVID obstacle. By performing inspections remotely and conference calls, I believe a tool was created that benefits PHAs. I see a place for this tool long after the pandemic concludes as PHAs work to increase efficiency and implement technology.”
The use of video and voice streaming technologies offers many benefits, especially at a time when COVID-19 still presents significant risk to residents and PHA staff alike. Video inspections should not be considered a lesser alternative to on-site inspections; instead, this technology, when coupled with effective protocols, offers great confidence in inspections and their results. RVIs will enable HUD and PHAs to conduct physical inspections while minimizing the potential spread of disease, both of which will help to protect resident health and safety. Less exposure to others and social distancing are not the only advantages, however, as RVIs can also:
- Improve PHA productivity and efficiency as travel time may be reduced or eliminated
- Reduce exposure by minimizing travel time and distance
- Save taxpayer dollars by reducing or eliminating travel costs
- Decrease potential disruptions in the inspected home
- Improve both owner and resident satisfaction by reducing concerns over exposure while providing assurances that health and safety in resident units are still important
Early-adopter PHAs have already witnessed RVI’s practicability. “As a result of working with the REAC team and other Housing Authorities, we were able to get the inspection time down to under 30 minutes, find good practices that allow tenants, care givers, and landlords to serve as the unit- base inspector under direction of our HQS certified inspector,” stated Nathan Blatchley, Executive Director of a small PHA, Hocking Metropolitan Housing Authority. “RVIs now being used in roughly 40% of our new unit and annual inspections with a fail rate that is similar to the in person inspections conducted during the same period (in person inspections are still used for empty units in the initial lease up). We also compared the data to our historic fail rate and there isn’t any significant difference in the fail rate using RVI versus pre-COVID-19 in person inspections.”
The notice details recommended conditions and procedures for performing RVIs, including:
- How best to prepare for, and schedule, an RVI
- Who should be present during inspection
- Any necessary equipment
- Requirements for the smart phone or tablet to be used
- Completion of HUD’s Lead based Paint Visual Assessment Training Course
- How to conduct the inspection
- Requirements for protecting Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
- How to document items that do not pass inspection
For more details, please see PIH Notice 2020-31.
Upcoming Webinar: Remote Video Inspections for Housing Choice Voucher Program
REAC is excited to discuss this innovative method for conducting Housing Choice Voucher inspections in our December 3, 2020, webinar, “Remote Video Inspections for Housing Choice Voucher program.” This webinar will provide an opportunity for HUD to review the major provisions of the Notice, illustrate how technology can be incorporated into voucher inspections, and make available several PHAs that have incorporated RVIs into their operations for lessons learned.
Please email RVI@HUD.gov if you're interested in attending the “Remote Video Inspections for Housing Choice Voucher program” webinar on December 3rd, 2020, at 2:00 PM Eastern Time.