NSPIRE Terms and Definitions

Woman writing on a notepad.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Term Definition
Advisory Health and Safety Deficiency

A deficiency critical to habitability but not presenting a substantive health or safety risk to residents.

Advisory Inspection Score

An NSPIRE inspection score given to a property volunteering in the NSPIRE Demonstration. During the NSPIRE Demonstration, NSPIRE inspection scores are advisory and do not count against volunteer properties, which carry forward their most recent Uniform Physical Condition Standards (UPCS) scores. Advisory inspection scores provide the Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) data points for analysis and refinement of the NSPIRE scoring model. The NSPIRE scoring model varies from the Public Housing Assessment System (PHAS) model by prioritizing health and safety to identify substandard properties and protect residents.

Approved Property A volunteer property that has applied and been approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to participate in the NSPIRE Demonstration.
Assessment ID A unique identifier for the NSPIRE Demonstration inspection. The inspections number is generated, assigned, and entered in the health & safety spreadsheet as part of REAC's automation process. It is one of the thirteen fields that will already be filled in when the property representative accesses the spreadsheet.
Building Any structure that has a contiguous roofline, has a permanent foundation (including pier foundations poured to bearing soil and below the frost line), is enclosed on all sides, and has at least one utility servicing it such as electric, gas, water, or sewer.
Building System Any inside or outside inspectable areas, including the building site and components of the building envelope, that provide domestic water, electricity, elevators, emergency power, fire protection, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), and sanitary services.
Condition and Appearance Deficiency

Condition and appearance deficiencies are those where components of the property do not meet reasonable expectations of condition and appearance or are damaged. This category includes deficiencies where HUD or the property could suffer reputational harm, or where a resident could incur additional costs because of this condition.

A condition and appearance deficiency is not likely to harm a resident, nor does it critically reduce or eliminate an object's usability. This category of deficiency requires repair based on the property's routine maintenance plan. Note that other, less significant "appearance" deficiencies, such as peeling non-lead-based paint inside a unit, may not be included.

  1. Any individual or other legal entity that:
    1. Directly or indirectly (e.g., through an affiliate), submits offers for or is awarded, or reasonably may be expected to submit offers for or be awarded, a Government contract, including a contract for carriage under Government or commercial bills of lading, or a subcontract under a Government contract; or
    2. Conducts business, or reasonably may be expected to conduct business, with the Government as an agent or representative of another contractor. (FAR 9.403)
  2. Includes the terms prime contractor and subcontractor. (FAR 22.801)
  3. Includes a subcontractor at any tier whose subcontract is subject to the provisions of the Services Contract Act. (FAR 22.1001)
  4. For subcontracting requirements, the total contractor organization or a separate entity of it, such as an affiliate, division, or plant, that performs its own purchasing. (FAR 44.101)
Defect ID A unique identifier for an NSPIRE deficiency. Like the Assessment Response ID, it is generated, assigned, and entered in the health & safety spreadsheet as part of REAC's automation process and is one of the thirteen fields that will already be filled in when the property representative accesses the spreadsheet.
Deficiency A defect or condition cited in a HUD physical inspection when there is an inspectable item that is observed to be missing, flawed, or not functioning as designed. Deficiencies differ by classification and severity, and deficiency definitions specify what must be recorded for a given deficiency.
Function and Operability Deficiency

A function and operability deficiency eliminates or critically reduces an object's usability, but the deficiency alone is not likely to directly harm a resident. Function and operability deficiencies are those where the resident is unable to use certain fixtures, features, or appliances. These are items which are reasonably assumed to be part of their rent.

This type of deficiency may be citable when a resident would incur additional costs because of this condition; for example, a sink that is constantly running. A function and operability deficiency may increase the resident's utility bill significantly if not corrected. These deficiencies require repair based on the property's routine maintenance plan.

Health and Safety Deficiency A risk that poses potential danger to residents. Health and safety risks are broken down to two categories: moderate and severe. Moderate health and safety deficiencies are non-life threatening, and deficiencies identified as such require corrective action within 30 days. Severe health and safety risks are comprised of non-life-threatening (NLT) and life-threatening (LT) deficiencies. Severe NLT deficiencies must be corrected within 30 days in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program and within 24 hours in other programs. All life-threatening deficiencies must be corrected within 24 hours.
HCV (Housing Choice Voucher) Program (Section 8) The Federal Government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market and not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects. Housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, which allows participants to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments, provided that housing meets program requirements. Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies that receive Federal funds from HUD. The Housing Quality Standards (HQS) used to inspect properties in the HCV program will be superseded by NSPIRE, once implemented.
HCV Pass/Fail Units participating in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) programs do not receive a score for physical inspections, so deficiencies are indicated only as a pass or fail. Items that fail must be corrected per the guidelines in the regulations.
HQS (Housing Quality Standards) [legacy term] The minimum quality standards for tenant-based and project-based programs at HUD and at the state and local level. Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program regulations at 24 CFR Part 982 set forth basic Housing Quality Standards (HQS) which all units must meet before assistance can be paid on behalf of a family and at least annually throughout the term of the assisted tenancy. HQS includes requirements for all housing types, including single- and multi-family dwelling units, as well as specific requirements for special housing types such as manufactured homes, congregate housing, single room occupancy, shared housing, and group residences. HQS will be replaced by NSPIRE.
HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development)

Created as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was established as a Cabinet Department by the Department of Housing and Urban Development Act (42 U.S.C. 3532-3537), effective November 9, 1965. It consolidated a number of other older federal agencies.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is the Federal agency responsible for national policy and programs that address America's housing needs, that improve and develop the Nation's communities, and enforce fair housing laws. HUD's business is helping create a decent home and suitable living environment for all Americans, and it has given America's communities a strong national voice at the Cabinet level. HUD plays a major role in supporting homeownership by underwriting homeownership for lower- and moderate-income families through its mortgage insurance programs.

The primary programs administered by HUD include:

  • Mortgage and loan insurance through the Federal Housing Administration
  • Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to help communities with economic development, job opportunities and housing rehabilitation
  • HOME Investment Partnership Act block grants to develop and support affordable housing for low-income residents
  • Rental assistance in the form of Section 8 certificates or vouchers for low-income households
  • Public or subsidized housing for low-income individuals and families
  • Homeless assistance provided through local communities and faith-based and other nonprofit organizations
  • Fair housing public education and enforcement
HUD Assisted Refers to properties with any of the following: Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance, a Federal mortgage interest subsidy, project based rental assistance such as Project Rental Assistance Contract (PRAC), HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), or other HUD funding including HUD funds allocated through state and local jurisdictions.
Inside (Inspectable Area) Inside of HUD housing refers to the common areas and building systems that can be generally found within the building interior and are not inside a Unit. Examples of “inside” common areas may include, basements, interior or attached garages, enclosed carports, restrooms, closets, utility rooms, mechanical rooms, community rooms, day care rooms, halls, corridors, stairs, shared kitchens, laundry rooms, offices, enclosed porches, enclosed patios, enclosed balconies, and trash collection areas. Examples of building systems include those components that provide domestic water, electricity, elevators, emergency power, fire protection, HVAC, and sanitary services.
Inside Common Areas Inside inspectable areas that may include basements, interior or attached garages, enclosed carports, restrooms, closets, utility rooms, mechanical rooms, community rooms, day care rooms, halls, corridors, stairs, shared kitchens, laundry rooms, offices, enclosed porches, enclosed patios, enclosed balconies, and trash collection areas.
Life-Threatening Deficiency The life-threatening category includes deficiencies that, if evident in the home or on the property, present a high risk of death or severe illness or injury to a resident.
Moderate Health and Safety Deficiency The moderate health and safety category includes deficiencies that, if evident in the home or on the property, present a moderate risk of an adverse medical event requiring a healthcare visit; cause temporary harm; or if left untreated, cause or worsen a chronic condition that may have long-lasting adverse health effects; or that the physical security or safety of a resident or their property could be compromised.
Multifamily Housing Privately owned housing subsidized by HUD to reduce mortgage costs, rehabilitate existing housing, or build new housing units. In return, owners must reduce rents on a percentage of units to make them more affordable for people of lower socioeconomic means. HUD's Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Office of Multifamily Housing (MFH) is responsible for the overall management, development, direction, and administration of HUD's Multifamily Housing Programs.
NSPIRE (National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate)

HUD's new housing inspection approach, under development, that prioritizes health, safety, and functional deficiencies over those about appearance. NSPIRE is a single inspection standard for all units under the Public Housing, HCV, Multifamily, and Community Planning and Development (CPD) programs. NSPIRE's focus is on the areas that impact residents the most, such as the dwelling unit. This model includes objective and clearly stated standards, value-added inspection protocols, and scoring elements that are more defensible and less complex.

NSPIRE is intended to better identify public housing agencies (PHA) and property owners and agents (POA) that are not adhering to minimum compliance standards by:

  • Establishing objective, well-defined deficiency definitions developed, tested, and validated in a rigorous collaboration with stakeholders such as PHAs, POAs, resident groups, public health experts, and academics during the NSPIRE Demonstration;
  • Requiring properties to complete and submit their annual self-inspection results electronically;
  • Incorporating less complex inspection protocols using indicators aligned to quality;
  • Reducing the number of inspectable areas at properties to simplify the process and reduce administrative errors related to deficiency misclassification by regrouping the inspectable items into three categories from five—note that this only changes the grouping of inspectable items; it does not change which items are being inspected;
  • Deliberately grouping deficiencies into one of three categories;
  • Identifying all health and safety (H&S) deficiencies; and
  • Adopting a new scoring model that places emphasis on the residents' homes.

The NSPIRE Model has three major components: (1) Three types of inspections, (2) three categories of physical deficiencies, and (3) three inspectable areas.

The three types of inspections include self-inspections (see Self-Inspection); NSPIRE inspections (see NSPIRE Inspection); and NSPIRE Plus inspections (see NSPIRE Plus Inspection). Note that the Housing Choice Voucher program is only required to have NSPIRE inspections.

The three categories of deficiencies are health and safety; function and operability; and condition and appearance, with each category ideally resulting in emergency work orders, routine work orders, and other maintenance respectively.

The three inspectable areas are Inside, Outside, and Unit. "Inside" refers to all common areas and building systems (e.g., HVAC) located inside a building, but not within dwelling units. "Outside" refers to the building site, the building envelope, and any building systems located outside of the building or unit. "Unit" refers to the interior of an individual residential unit.

The transition to these three major components will decrease inspection complexity, simplify the scoring model, and increase consistency in the way the standards are interpreted and protocols are applied during an inspection.

NSPIRE Demonstration A multiyear demonstration that began in the 4th Quarter of Fiscal Year 2019 with the aim of having 4,500 volunteer properties assist in refining the National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE). The NSPIRE Demonstration will test, and refine as necessary, inspection standards and protocols, regulations, business processes, risk models, IT systems, and support services necessary to support the goals of NSPIRE (see NSPIRE). The Demonstration involves a diverse, representative group of stakeholders, including the Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC), other HUD offices, public housing agencies (PHA), property owners/agents (POA), residents, public health officials, academics, and industry groups.
NSPIRE Demonstration Volunteer Property Properties that property owners or agents volunteer to participate in the NSPIRE Demonstration that are willing to adopt the NSPIRE Model to assess the physical condition of HUD housing. Not to be confused with a property participating in the UPCS-V/NSPIRE-V Demonstration.
NSPIRE Inspection Physical inspections conducted mainly by contract inspectors and public housing agencies every one to three years, depending on a property's previous inspection score. NSPIRE inspections focus on deficiencies deemed to be the most important indicators of housing quality. NSPIRE inspections may use a high unit sampling rate and are intended to provide HUD a high level of confidence in the inspection results.
NSPIRE Plus Inspection Inspections conducted by HUD that are triggered by poor property conditions or requested by other HUD offices. These additional inspections may use the highest sampling rate and provide HUD the highest level of confidence in a property's condition. Scoring results provide evidence-based data to justify and support enforcement actions.
NSPIRE Standards Physical inspection standards for assessing HUD-assisted housing. Each standard lists the definition of the inspectable item, its purpose, common components, deficiency location(s), deficiency criteria, the health and safety determination, correction timeframes, and the inspection process required. Refers to inspection, not housing, standards. See also NSPIRE.
Outside (Inspectable Area) Outside of HUD housing (or “outside areas”) refers to the building site, building exterior components, and any building systems located outside of the building or unit. Examples of “outside” components may include facades, fencing, retaining walls, grounds, lighting, mailboxes, project signs, parking lots, detached garage or carport, driveways, play areas and equipment, refuse disposal, roads, storm drainage, non-dwelling buildings, and walkways. Components found on the exterior of the building are also considered outside areas, and examples may include doors, attached porches, attached patios, balconies, car ports, fire escapes, foundations, lighting, roofs, walls, and windows.
PASS (Physical Assessment Subsystem) A HUD program that coordinates Uniform Physical Condition Standards (UPCS) inspections for public housing agencies and the Office of Multifamily Housing (MFH) assisted and insured properties. The Physical Assessment Subsystem (PASS) ensures efficient inspection scheduling and arranges for correction and rescheduling of inspections deemed incomplete or deficient. PASS conducts quality control checks of each uploaded inspection and provides property-specific online reporting of the inspection results in Secure Systems. PASS responds to technical review and database adjustment requests from PHAs and MFH owners and agents. PASS trains and certifies all inspectors under UPCS.
PBRA (Section 8 Project Based Rental Assistance) A form of a project-based contract that is administered by HUD's Office of Multifamily Housing (MFH). In the program, like in Project Based Vouchers (PBV), rental assistance is tied to specific units in a property. PBRA makes up the difference between what an extremely low-, low-, or very low-income household can afford and the approved rent for an adequate housing unit in a multifamily project. Eligible tenants must pay the highest of 30 percent of adjusted income, 10 percent of gross income, or the portion of welfare assistance designated for housing or the minimum rent established by HUD. Buildings with units assisted through PBRA are often owned and operated by private owners.
PBV (Project Based Vouchers) A program that is part of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, which is operated by public housing agencies (PHA) and overseen at HUD by the Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH). PHAs with an HCV program provide rental vouchers that allow residents to choose their own housing in the private market. PHAs can use some of their HCV funding for contracts that tie the HCV funding to a specific building, meaning that when a resident moves out, the housing assistance stays with that unit. These project-based contracts make up the PBV program. Projects are typically selected for PBVs through a competitive process managed by the PHA, although in certain cases projects may be selected non-competitively. Residents receiving a project-based voucher do not get to choose the unit they live in but will spend 30% of their income on housing with the PHA paying the rest.
PHA (Public Housing Agency)

HUD administers Federal aid to local public housing agencies (PHA) that manage the housing for low-income residents at rents they can afford. HUD furnishes technical and professional assistance in planning, developing, and managing these developments. A PHA is responsible for the management and operation of its local public housing program. They may also operate other types of housing programs.

POA (Property Owner/Agent) A property owner or the property owner's agent/property manager.
Property Profile A data record that an inspector downloads from the REAC website prior to performing an inspection on a property. The property profile contains the inspection number, property information (e.g., property name), participant information (e.g., name, title), building information (e.g., building name and type), and the total number of units. Once downloaded, information from the property profile is automatically entered into relevant sections of the PASS 2.1 inspection software. The inspector will verify and update this information as necessary to ensure accuracy.
Public Housing A program of HUD that was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single-family housing to high-rise apartments for elderly families. There are approximately 1 million households living in public housing units, managed by some 3,300 public housing agencies (PHAs).
RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) A HUD program created to give public housing agencies (PHA) a powerful tool to preserve and improve public housing properties and address the nationwide backlog of deferred maintenance. RAD also gives owners of three HUD legacy programs (Rent Supplement, Rental Assistance Payment, and Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation) the opportunity to enter long-term contracts that facilitate the financing of improvements.
Rationale A plainly written risk-based assessment that describes the harm or negative result that could occur if that issue were to be present at a property. It justifies why that issue is critical to housing quality. Rationales are developed using best practices from risk analysis frameworks that feature predominantly in the public health discipline to help all stakeholders understand the “why” or the “rationale” for each deficiency. By taking this approach, HUD can ground each standard in a clear and defensible explanation based in sound science.
REAC (Real Estate Assessment Center) An office within HUD with the vision to lead with innovative assessments that empower REAC customers to improve the nation's affordable housing portfolio, and a mission to provide REAC customers with independent, actionable assessments that advance risk-informed decisions about the condition of the nation's affordable housing portfolio.
REAC Inspector A housing inspector authorized by HUD to assess and report on conditions at HUD-assisted properties.
RVI (Remote Video Inspection)

A method of inspecting HUD-assisted properties using video streaming technology. Using RVI, a housing inspector at a remote location is assisted by a person at the property who serves as a proxy for the inspector. The proxy walks the property as directed by the inspector, streaming video to the inspector of various inspectable items so that the inspector can assess property conditions.

RVI is a way to use technology to complete an inspection without the inspector being on-site. It helps public housing agencies (PHA) overcome inspection challenges now, in a time of global pandemic, and in the future. A successful RVI program provides the same assurance as an in-person Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection.

Self-Inspection A yearly inspection of all units at a property conducted by property owners or management and is a condition of participation in the NSPIRE Demonstration. Under NSPIRE, results are submitted electronically to HUD via the POA's inspection software or HUD-provided software.
Severe Health and Safety Deficiency

The severe health and safety category includes deficiencies that, if evident in the home or on the property, present a high risk of death, permanent disability, or serious injury or illness to a resident; or that the physical security or safety of a resident or their property would be seriously compromised.

Severe health and safety includes life-threatening and severe non-life-threatening categories.

Severe Non-Life-Threatening Deficiency The severe non-life-threatening category includes deficiencies that, if evident in the home or on the property, present a high risk of permanent disability, or serious injury or illness, to a resident; or the physical security or safety of a resident or their property would be seriously compromised.
Submitted Property Volunteer property applications submitted to the NSPIRE Demonstration that are pending approval.
Unit (Inspectable Area) A Unit (or “dwelling Unit”) of HUD housing refers to the interior components of an individual Unit. Examples of components in the interior of a Unit may include the bathroom; call-for-aid (if applicable); ceiling; doors; electrical systems; floors; water heater; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) (where individual units are provided); kitchen; lighting; outlets; switches; smoke detectors; stairs; walls; and windows.
UPCS (Uniform Physical Condition Standards) [legacy term] A set of standards used by inspectors to assess the physical condition of properties receiving assistance through HUD's public housing and multifamily programs, as well as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. UPCS inspections assess property conditions in five inspectable areas: Site, Building Exterior, Building Systems, Common Areas, and Unit. Each inspectable area contains specified inspectable items and observable deficiencies. UPCS will be replaced by NSPIRE.
UPCS-V (Uniform Physical Condition Standards for Vouchers) [legacy term] A demonstration program that implemented an improved inspection standard for HUD's Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) units. UPCS-V enhanced the accuracy, consistency, and objectivity of the inspection process, and provided more information about the condition of individual housing units. UPCS-V enabled HUD to clarify and streamline inspection processes for PHAs and inspectors while increasing owners and tenants' access to detailed information about their homes. UPCS-V will be replaced by NSPIRE-V. Once deficiency criteria that make up NSPIRE are completed, such criteria will be included in the UPCS-Voucher demonstration.
Vendor A supplier, or potential supplier, of goods and/or services under contract to the U.S. Government.


Connect with Us
Phone Icon Phone the Technical Assistance Center (TAC)
Email Icon Email the NSPIRE Information Center
NSPIRE Mailing List
NSPIRE News & Updates Sign up for news and updates about NSPIRE.