October, 2009
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Is there an upswing in government-financed mortgage policy?


Throughout the summer, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan has been announcing programs or speaking in general terms about HUD’s increasing involvement in plans addressing the economic crisis.

Early in August, he announced an expansion of the Home Affordable Refinance Program to borrowers who are up to 125 percent under water. The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009, signed into law on May 20, allows the FHA to give qualified FHA-insured borrowers the opportunity to reduce their monthly mortgage payment by modifying the mortgage through FHA-HAMP.

Later in the month, he announced new FHA-Making Home Affordable Loan Modification Guidelines. This program is designed to help FHA borrowers significantly reduce their monthly mortgage payments by seeking a loan modification through their current mortgage company or loan servicer.

Back in June, Donovan spoke at the National Association of Real Estate Editors conference. Reportedly, he said that if Congress grants the authority, the FHA is expected to endorse 2.25 million mortgages in 2010.

ASHI’s federal lobbyist, Randal Pence, Capitol Advocates, Inc., suggests that Donovan is forecasting a greater role for the FHA in backing government-financed mortgages. Pence is seeing an upswing in government-backed housing sales and the policy that governs them. He said this provides both challenges and opportunities for ASHI members, and he will continue to monitor developments, reporting and
advising ASHI leaders as warranted.

For more information, visit www.makinghomesaffordable.gov.

Investigation of imported drywall status update, August 2009

As reported previously, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has taken the lead in the federal government’s investigation of imported drywall used in home construction.

As of this report, the CPSC had received 810 incident reports, including reports from two new states, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, making it a total of 23 states and the District of Columbia where problem drywall has been reported. The majority of the reports continue to be from Florida, Louisiana and Virginia.

The federal drywall team has remained focused on pursuing the scientific bases of the problem and tracing the chain of commerce of the drywall.

Highlights include:

  • Start of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory chamber testing of various drywall samples to isolate specific emissions.
  • Start of the 50 home indoor air-sampling program.
  • Site visit to a Florida synthetic drywall manufacturing facility.
  • The posting of summaries of 44 incident investigations conducted by CPSC on the Drywall Information Center Web site.
  • Completion of testing for radioactive phosphogypsum contamination in drywall through state and federal
  • partners.
Federal and State Coordination
The CPSC hosted a call among attorneys general of impacted states to coordinate and exchange information about state-level efforts.

The CPSC coordinated sampling and testing for radioactive phosphogypsum contamination in drywall with the Florida Department of Health and the EPA National Air and Radiation Environmental Laboratory.

The Drywall Information Center Web site was updated to include summaries of 44 consumer incident investigations that describe health and corrosion concerns. For those consumers who do not have access to the Internet, the CPSC also takes consumer calls regarding drywall on its hotline and handled 128 such calls during the month of July.

International Efforts

The CPSC has received approval from the Chinese for a visit to China, and CPSC staff is working with the Chinese government to arrange an investigative visit beginning August 17, 2009.

Progress in the Investigation
Investigation Into Scope of Affected Homes and Chain of Commerce
The CPSC continues to analyze the information received from consumers, builders, importers, manufacturers and suppliers of drywall to determine how much imported drywall is affected and where that drywall has been installed.

To date, CPSC staff has confirmed 6,211,200 sheets of Chinese drywall were imported into the U.S., plus 28,778 sheets imported into Guam, Saipan and American Samoa during 2006. Temporary personnel and new technology is providing additional resources to map affected properties and the chain of commerce.

Technical Investigation

Engineering, health and safety analyses continue. CPSC engineering staff visited seven homes in Florida, Louisiana and Virginia to harvest samples of electrical, plumbing and safety systems.

For example, to date, it has gathered 80 electrical receptacles, 19 switches, 22 smoke alarms and 18 samples of copper piping, among other such components.

The CPSC continues to report it has no confirmed fire incidents involving Chinese drywall.

The EPA is conducting elemental analyses of 15 drywall samples, and has set a tentative date for completing its analyses of drywall samples by late August. We anticipate that after approximately 30 days of analysis, review and interpretation of the data, the interagency group will have findings by the end of September.

In July, the CPSC became aware of allegations of the use of radioactive phosphogypsum in some imported drywall. Radioactive materials are outside of the CPSC’s authority under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, and as such, are also outside of its expertise. CPSC staff immediately arranged for testing in the radiation labs of its partner agencies in the state of Florida and with the EPA, and provided samples to these laboratories for analysis. The data from these tests are under scientific review by the interagency technical committee.

The federal drywall team will report the results of this work when it’s finished.

Chamber studies are under way at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to isolate drywall emissions.

Similarly, the in-home indoor air sampling study by the contractor, Environmental Health and Engineering, has begun and is expected to be completed by early September 2009. The evaluation of the results is expected to be complete by
late September 2009.

Source: www.cpsc.gov/info/drywall/drywallstatus07092009.pdf.