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A National Survey of Rehabilitation Enforcement Practices

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June 1998, 152 pages

HUD has encouraged the simplification of building regulations to promote rehabilitation of existing housing for the past 17 years. In 1995 HUD sponsored discussions on model building codes and enforcement practices, during which participants recommended that HUD promote additional streamlining of rehabilitation codes by polling code enforcement officials.

A National Survey of Rehabilitation Enforcement Practices presents the results of HUD's efforts. Just released by the Office of Policy Development and Research, the survey reveals that code enforcement varies from one jurisdiction to another. Different regions focus on different code provisions and enforcement differs depending on the model code used.

Survey results show that local rehabilitation professionals hold a more positive view regarding preapplication reviews than do code administrators. Additionally, the cost of the review and inspection process varies greatly -- from 0.2 percent to 1.5 percent of project costs. Several code administrators were concerned about personal liability for enforcement activities. Fewer than one-fourth reported that they had looked for streamlined approaches to code enforcement.

According to the survey, almost all of the jurisdictions considered dead-loads in their structural assessment of buildings, while 83 percent considered wind-loads. Conversely, only 40 percent considered earthquake/seismic forces. Many requirements continued to discourage rehabilitation:

  • More than 10 percent of administrators reported that they would expect more than a 2-hour fire separation rating for corridor walls.

  • Administrators were not supportive of exterior fire escapes.

  • One-fourth of administrators always required electrical service to be upgraded to 100 amperes, and 71 percent said that they usually or sometimes required it.

  • Only 40 percent of the administrators reported that they usually permit additional plumbing fixtures without an upgrade in service.

  • A vast multiplicity of codes exists, administered by unrelated and uncoordinated local regulatory agencies.

The survey yielded additional information: 20 percent of communities have local incentives to encourage rehabilitation, 15 percent provide informational materials, 13 percent encourage flexibility in interpretation of the local code, 11 percent use preinspection measures, 9 percent have programs that stimulate rehabilitation, and 7 percent have plan review procedures to save time.

Administrators cited a lack of resources as the most frequent reason for limited rehabilitation activities. Costs, limited market demand, and other economic issues also prevented greater rehabilitation. Zoning, accessibility, and other code requirements were also frequently cited as preventing rehabilitation.

Content updated on 4/3/2003

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