HUD Announces HOME-ARP Allocations

Today, HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge announced the allocation of nearly $5 billion in American Rescue Plan funds to help create affordable housing and services for people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. The supplemental funding is allocated through the HOME Investment Partnerships Program to 651 grantees, included states, insular areas, and local governments. A full list of grantees can be found here.

The funding gives states the flexibility to meet the needs of people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness. Funding can be used to develop affordable housing, tenant-based rental assistance, supportive services, and acquisition and development of non-congregate shelter units. The funding is also the first of two homelessness-related funding opportunities from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) that HUD will release.

HUD’s press release can be found here.

Nearly $700 Million Allocated for Housing Trust Fund

Earlier this week, HUD announced the allocation of over $689 million through the nation’s Housing Trust Fund (HTF) for affordable housing. The HFT is capitalized through contributions made by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The 2021 allocation represents an increase in funding of over $367 million from 2020. A list of state allocation can be found here.

The HTF is specifically focused on housing for the most vulnerable populations. States must use at least 80 percent of their annual grant for rental housing, up to 10 percent for homeownership, and up to 10 percent for reasonable administrative and planning costs. HTF funds can be used for the production or preservation of affordable housing through acquisition, new construction, reconstruction, and/or rehabilitation of non-luxury housing with suitable amenities. HTF-assisted units for a minimum affordability period of 30 years.

CDC Eviction Moratorium Extended to June 30, 2021

On March 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky issued a 17-page order extending the CDC Eviction Moratorium from April 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021. The previous eviction moratorium order was set to expire on March 31. 

The order provides tenants with eviction protections for unpaid rent due to the impact of COVID-19. Tenants will be able to provide their landlord a signed declaration that invokes the eviction moratorium protections. Tenants that have previously provided their landlord a signed declaration will continue to have the eviction moratorium protections and will not need to provide a new declaration. 

NAHRO and HUD have provided resources to assist housing providers work with their tenants to catch up on unpaid rent and avoid eviction – these resources can be found here.

Section 3 F.A.Q. Released

On March 25, HUD published a Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.) on Section 3. HUD’s “Enhancing and Streamlining the Implementation of Section 3 Requirements for Creating Economic Opportunities for Low- and Very Low-Income Persons and Eligible Businesses” final rule was published on September 29 in the Federal Register. The rule updates Section 3 regulations and reporting requirements and clarifies the obligations of entities that are covered by Section 3. PHAs have until July 1, 2021 to implement their Section 3 activities pursuant to the rule and comply with new reporting requirements.

The final rule includes separate requirements for Public Housing Section 3 projects and Section 3 projects that use other HUD program assistance for housing rehabilitation, housing construction, and other public housing construction projects. All PHAs that receive funding for public housing are required to report on Section 3, however, agencies with fewer than 250 units are only required to report on qualitative efforts to meet Section 3 requirements and are not required to report on whether they have met specific Section 3 outcome benchmarks or not. Generally, any housing rehabilitation, housing construction, or other public construction projects that uses other HUD program assistance that exceeds a $200,000 threshold or any project that receives funding from HUD’s Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes programs, is required to report Section 3 activities to HUD. Section 8 program activities are excluded from the rule.

HUD’s F.A.Q. provides guidance for Section 3 funding recipients, subrecipients, contractors, subcontractors, workers, and other stakeholders. The F.A.Q. lacks the force and effect of binding law. The F.A.Q. is broken up into seven sections. The sections include general questions regarding Section 3, applicability, consistency with other laws, recipient responsibilities, Section 3 certification, economic opportunities numerical benchmarks, and Section 3 complaints. HUD plans for this FAQ to be a living and evolving document with new questions added for guidance as HUD receives them. If you would like to ask additional or clarifying questions, please feel free to contact the Section 3 team at Section3@hud.gov. The F.A.Q. can be found here.

Congress Holds Hearing on Public Housing and the Pandemic

The House Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance held a hearing on Wednesday, March 24th titled, “Preserving a Lifeline: Examining Public Housing in a Pandemic.” In his opening statement, Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) reflected on the history of public housing and his own experience growing up in a public housing unit.

House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Steve Stiver (R-OH) also provided opening statements in recognition of the growing affordable housing needs in the United States.

NAHRO’s Director of Policy and Program Development, Georgi Banna, was the first witness to testify. He explained how public housing serves as a community hub and a community asset, highlighting the efforts of several NAHRO members throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Banna emphasized Congress’s responsibility to address the $70 billion Public Housing Capital Fund backlog, stating, “Public housing must be protected. Public housing must be expanded.”

Four additional witnesses testified at the hearing. Tamir Ali Mohamud, a public housing resident and member of the Minneapolis High-Rise Representative Council, spoke about finding a safe home in public housing as a Somalian refugee. The Executive Director of Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, Brian Gage, testified about his agency’s efforts to support residents during the pandemic and advocated for additional HUD waivers and flexibilities. Another PHA Executive Director, Oscar Duran of the Municipal Housing Agency of Council Bluffs, supported many of the same points and defended the essential role of public housing within the network of affordable housing programs.

The final witness was Michael Hendrix, the Director of State and Local Policy for the Manhattan Institute. He spoke about the challenges faced by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and mentioned an expansion of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program as a possible solution.

Subcommittee members then questioned the witnesses on several pieces of their testimonies. For example, Congressman Al Lawson (D-FL) asked about the human costs of the long-term disinvestment in public housing. Congressman Van Taylor (R-TX) discussed the need for more physical, affordable housing units and potential zoning law changes with Mr. Banna and Mr. Hendrix. Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-OH) asked Mr. Gage about the pros and cons of Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversions.

Representative Ritchie Torres (D-NY), a newly elected member of Congress, began his comments by stating, “I would not be in the United States Congress were it not for public housing and the stability it gave me and my family.” While questioning Mr. Banna, Rep. Torres expressed his frustration that Congress provides $100 billion in annual mortgage interest deductions for homeowners but has not yet addressed the $70 billion Public Housing Capital Fund backlog. Chairman Cleaver (D-MO) closed the hearing by thanking the witnesses for their time. The recorded hearing and all witness testimonies are available the House Financial Services Committee website at this link: https://financialservices.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=406267

Housing-Related Hazards Capital Fund Grant Notice Released

The FY2020 Appropriations Act made $20,000,000 available for competitive grants to public housing agencies to evaluate and reduce housing-related hazards including carbon monoxide and mold in public housing through the Housing-related Hazards Capital Fund Program. HUD released its Grants Notice for the program today.

Applications are due to HUD by May 25 and should be submitted here. There is an award floor of $10,000 and an award ceiling of $4,000,000.

Senate Banking Committee Holds “The State of Housing in America” Hearing

On Tues., March 16th, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a virtual hearing called “Home = Life: The State of Housing in America”. The hearing covered a wide variety of housing topics, including affordable housing, housing finance, and access to homeownership.

Chairman Brown (D-OH) noted that it had been nine years since the committee held a hearing on housing for all Americans, especially, “homeowners looking to buy a lower cost home, seniors on a fixed income, and renters working a minimum wage job.”  

Five witnesses spoke about the areas of housing within their expertise. Dr. Chris Herbert from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies explained how the public, private, and nonprofit sectors can work together to address major housing issues. Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) outlined the housing needs of extremely low-income households. She urged the committee to support the “Public Housing Emergency Response Act,” which would authorize $70 billion for the public housing capital needs backlog.

The remaining three witnesses covered affordable homeownership and housing finance. They included Nikitra Bailey from the Center for Responsible Lending, Edward J. Pinto from the AEI Housing Center, and Ed DeMarco from the Housing Policy Council.

After presenting their testimonies, each witness answered questions from committee Senators. Senator Ossoff (D-GA) asked about the best way to distribute emergency Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) in response to COVID-19. Ranking Member Toomey (R-PA) spoke to the last two witnesses about housing market reform, including changes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Senator Smith (D-MN), chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development, asked Dr. Herbert about increasing the stock of affordable housing in rural communities.

Senator Warren (D-MA) discussed public housing with Diane Yentel, stating, “through decades of underinvestment and unnecessary restrictions, Congress has helped create this crisis – that means that Congress can help fix it by making serious investments in increasing the supply of affordable housing and expanding public housing for the first time in decades.”  

The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will consider several pieces of housing-related legislation in the upcoming months.

2019 Public Charge Rule No Longer Applicable

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced they will no longer defend the 2019 Public Charge rule and have withdrawn their appeal of an Illinois court decision invalidating the 2019 Public Charge rule. The result of DHS’s action is that the court’s decision striking down the 2019 Public Charge rule will become final and the previous 1999 interim field guidance (the immediate past policy) will apply.

Under the 1999 interim field guidance, DHS will not consider a person’s receipt of Medicaid (except for Medicaid for long-term institutionalization), public housing, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as part of the public charge inadmissibility determination.  In addition, medical treatment or preventive services for COVID-19, including vaccines, will not be considered for public charge purposes.

DHS Statement on Litigation Related to the Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility, March 9, 2021

DHS has pre-published a final rule, Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds; Implementation of Vacatur, that removes the 2019 Public Charge rule text from the Federal Register. The rule will take affect when published which is scheduled for March 15, 2021.

CDC Eviction Moratorium Ruled Unconstitutional, Still in Effect

Late on Feb. 25, 2021, Judge J. Campbell Barker of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ruled, in a 21-page order, that the eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is unconstitutional.  Meaning the Federal government does not have the constitutional authority to issue the CDC eviction moratorium. The US Justice Department, attorneys for the CDC, argued that the federal government did have the authority to enact an eviction moratorium through Article 1 of the US Constitution’s power to enact laws necessary and proper to regulate interstate commerce. The Court was not convinced by this argument and ruled against the federal government. The Court did acknowledge that landlord-tenant relationship can be regulated by state law. 

Even though the CDC Eviction Moratorium was ruled unconstitutional, Judge Barker did not issue an injunction stopping the effect of the eviction moratorium. Therefore, the CDC Eviction Moratorium is still in place and effective at the time of this writing. The Justice Department released a statement on Saturday, February 27, 2021 “respectfully” disagreeing with the Court’s decision and further stating that “the [Justice] Department has appealed that decision.”  

NAHRO will continue to monitor the court activity surrounding the CDC Eviction Moratorium and will provide additional updates as warranted. 

FY2021 Capital Fund Grants Released

On February 23, HUD released $2.7 billion to public housing agencies through the Public Housing Capital Fund program, included in the FY 2021 Appropriations Act. FY2021 included $19 million more in Capital Fund formula grants than FY 2020. NAHRO was pleased with the increase in funding as the Capital Fund is critical to ensure PHAs are able to build, renovate, and/or modernize their public housing properties.

HUD’s press release can be found here.