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By Dan Biron, Executive VP of Inspection Services for US Housing Consultants 

The NSPIRE portal is a Salesforce-based system, and this is where HUD releases inspection report data and where repair/mitigation information must be uploaded by property Owners/Agents after NSPIRE inspections are completed.  The NSPIRE portal is also now required for submitting inspection appeals. 

HUD has NSPIRE portal guidance documents and videos on their NSPIRE webpage, but it focuses only on how to close out Health and Safety issues in the portal.  You can see that information by clicking here.  The video for PHA and POA users is worth watching to better understand the system. 

HUD field office staff also have access to the NSPIRE portal and can see uploaded documentation from Owners/Agents and can provide comments in that system to request additional information or ask for clarifications on specific issues as needed. 

What is good about the NSPIRE Portal? 

The system allows for uniform transmission of inspection data and mitigation records, and allows users to filter and sort the data, which can be helpful when they are uploading large quantities of documentation. This Salesforce-based platform is a step forward from the older systems HUD/REAC previously used. 

What are the challenges with the NSPIRE portal?  

Getting initial access to this new system has been challenging for many.  Access is supposed to be granted to any contact associated with each property in HUD’s IREMS system. But that system is often out of date or does not include all the contacts that would like access to the new portal.  HUD has instructed property contacts to contact the REAC Technical Assistance Center (TAC) if they are unable to see their inspection results after an inspection is completed.  The instructions and contact info for TAC are on HUD’s appeals webpage.   

How Does the New NSPIRE Portal Affect REAC Appeals?

Prior to NSPIRE, the above appeals webpage used to be more in-depth and included examples of various good vs. bad appeals to give an idea of what might qualify for an appeal, and what supportive documentation would be required to have appeals approved. 

Now that page simply gives instructions on what to do if the report is not accessible, and points to the Admin notice for more information.  The Admin Notice section on appeals is also sparce, but many have no idea what is required to submit with an appeal and/or what qualifies for approval.   

For appeals US Housing Consultants assists with, we have continued to use the old logic described previously and have been successful with our appeal filings so far, but for anyone who lacks experience with appeals before the NSPIRE transition, the lack of guidance is very much an issue.  HUD has stated at public conferences they will be revamping the appeals webpage sometime in the future, but it is not clear when that will happen. 

Also prior to the NSPIRE transition, the appeal process included a typed letter/document summarizing the appealed issues and reasons for appealing. It also included procedures for referencing supportive documentation (such as expert opinion letters, local code references, additional photographs, etc.).  The appeal letter/document and the supportive documents would be submitted via email to REAC for review. 

Now HUD asks in the Administrative Notice that appeal packages still be emailed to them, but that they must also be attached to each specific deficiency being appealed in the NSPIRE portal.  This is not an intuitive process and can be time consuming particularly if there are many issues included in the appeal.  There is also very limited ability to make the appeal arguments in the portal (they have a short character limit in the field where “Reason to Appeal” arguments must be inserted, leading to frustration for many attempting to summarize complex arguments in a short sentence.     

Another common complaint we hear about the NSPIRE portal is that it includes limited deficiency details information without drilling down to each issue, so many find it difficult to locate specific deficiencies without clicking through each of the listed issues one by one. 

Reporting in the portal seems to also be hit or miss.  Many NSPIRE reports are issued with incomplete data such as missing photos or scoring information, and some reports are issued with duplicate information throughout (every defect is listed twice) leading to confusion.  Early on, we thought these were glitches that would be worked out, but eight months into the process these issues are still occurring regularly. 

Final thoughts on the New NSPIRE Portal

The NSPIRE portal being a Salesforce platform solution is a good concept and could be beneficial to the industry in the long run, but so far, the transition to using it has been messy and fraught with technical issues. 

And with insufficient guidance from REAC to PHAs, Property Owners/Agents, and local area HUD office staff, who all are tasked with using the new system, can sometimes feel adrift.  This has all resulted in the consensus from our client that they believe the new NSPIRE portal is cumbersome to use.  They are adjusting to it, and we hear fewer complaints now than we did initially, but there are some simple tweaks that could be made to make it much more user friendly. With input from the industry professionals using the system, the experience for PHAs, POAs, and HUD Field Office staff could be dramatically improved. 

Executive VP of Inspection Services