HUD Announces Changes to the AFFH Assessment Tools for Small PHAs and Local Governments

On August 23, HUD will publish a 30-day notice in the Federal Register seeking public feedback on the Local Government Assessment Tool, the instrument with which communities receiving HUD Community Planning and Development (CPD) formula grant dollars must use to conduct and submit their Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) analysis, as required by the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Final Rule.

Due to limited staff and resources, NAHRO has long-requested for HUD to streamline the AFFH assessment tools for small program participants. The 30-day Notice announces two substantial changes that would, ideally, help simplify the AFH process for Qualified Public Housing Authorities (QPHAs), defined as PHAs not designed as “troubled” with a combined unit total of 550 or less, and for local governments receiving small CPD formula grants:

  • HUD seeks to revise the existing Local Government Assessment Tool to include two new streamlined assessments for small program participants, called “inserts.” The first insert would be for use by QPHAs and the second insert would be for use by local governments that received a CBDG grant of $500,000 or less in the most recent fiscal year prior to the AFH due date. QPHAs and local governments seeking to fulfill their AFFH requirements through these streamlined inserts must be involved in a joint or regional collaboration with a local government as the lead entity.
  • HUD seeks to issue a fourth assessment tool for Qualified PHAs. Prior to this notice, HUD had committed to issuing only three AFFH assessment tools (Local Government, State and Insular Areas, and PHA-only). The new QPHA Assessment Tool would be for use by a QPHA or by multiple QPHAs jointly collaborating to submit an AFH. HUD assumes that many QPHAs will want to take advantage of this option, particularly those unable to enter into a joint or regional collaboration with another partner. HUD intends to issue a separate public notice and comment process for this new tool.

The 30-day notice also addresses the public comments received in response to the 60-day information collection notice that was published on March 23, 2016 (see NAHRO’s comments here). NAHRO’s next issue of The Monitor (members only) will have additional details about the contents of the 30-day notice.

GAO Publishes Report on HUD Management

On August 19, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) made publicly available a report it wrote for congressional requesters. The report found that HUD has “not consistently incorporated requirements and key practices  identified by GAO to help ensure effective management into its operations.”

The report identified five management functions and discusses how completely HUD implemented prior GAO recommendations. Selected excerpts can be found below:

Performance planning and reporting – “HUD met most of the requirements in the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 for its strategic plan and annual performance plan and report . . . [b]ut HUD’s strategic plan does not clearly link HUD’s goals and objectives with federal priority goals.”

Information technology management – “HUD has not demonstrated that it has the capacity to effectively plan for and manage IT projects.”

Human capital management – “HUD has made progress in developing new human capital plans and mostly followed key principle and practices for strategic workforce planning, succession planning, and training planning.”

Financial management – “HUD did not follow seven of eight key practices for financial management.”

Acquisition management – “HUD partially followed key practices for acquisition relating to organizational alignment and human capital.”

The report recommends that HUD take the following eight actions:

  1. Link HUD’s goals and objectives with federal priority goals;
  2. Describe why HUD’s goals were not met and HUD’s plans for achieving them;
  3. Establish procedures and time frames to reach out to Congress and stakeholders to ensure that the strategic plan meets statutory requirements;
  4. Establish a process and schedule to review and update HUD’s human capital strategic plan; strategic workforce plan; and succession plan;
  5. Establish a process and schedule to update policies and procedures to help ensure that policies and procedures for key management functions remain current and complete;
  6. Formalize lines of communication between the Chief Information Officer and the agency head;
  7. Designate entities within program offices for fraud risk management activities; and
  8. Develop written policies for conducting program evaluations.

Thanks to PHADA for bringing this report to our attention.

The full report can be found here. The PDF can be found here.

The highlights page can be found here.

FMRs, SAFMRs, and Volatility

Our friends at the National Housing Conference (NHC) and the Public Housing Authorities Director’s Association (PHADA) have written a blog post with a series of beautiful maps on historical Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) volatility on NHC’s Open House Blog. Here’s a map from the blog post on the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria HUD Metro Fair Market Rent (FMR) area.

https://nahropolicyblog.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/d5a51-washington-arlington-alexandria252c2bdc-va-md2bhud2bmetro2bfmr2barea.jpg?w=406&h=287

I recommend looking at the blog post to read their take on SAFMRs and volatility and to see the other maps.

Here are a couple of points that I would like to note to further this conversation.

The methodology for calculating Fair Market Rents (and SAFMRs) is changing

In calculating the final FY 2016 FMRs HUD switched from a “historical-based annualized change in gross rent trend factor [to] a forward-looking forecast . . . [that] uses a model that forecasts national rent and utility [Consumer Price Index] indices based on economic assumptions used in the formulation of the President’s Budget.”[1] Since the methodology has changed, we need a time horizon of a few years to see if the volatility remains as bad a problem as before the methodological change.

Additionally, Peter Kahn, the Director of HUD PD&R‘s Economic Market Analysis Division, has stated the following:

We are looking at ways throughout the proposed ’17 FMR process of addressing that . . . variability in general. When the proposed ’17 FMRs are out, the . . . you can read that preamble and see that we are trying to take steps to address that variability. (See the YouTube clip where he said that here.)

Will HUD be successful in addressing this volatility? I don’t know, but it’s good that they’re aware of the problem and are taking steps to address the issue.

The passage of the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016 (HOTMA) may give PHAs a tool in managing volatility of payment standards based on both FMRs and SAFMRs

HOTMA has a provision that allows PHAs to hold harmless households that live in areas that receive lower FMRs. Section 107(b) of HOTMA states that “no public housing agency shall be required as a result of a reduction in the fair market rental to reduce the payment standard applied to a family continuing to reside in a unit for which the family was receiving assistance . . . at the time the fair market rental was reduced.” It is NAHRO’s understanding that this provision will apply to payment standards based on FMRs and SAFMRs.

The chart below shows how if a provision allowing for payment standards to be held harmless was in place between 2010 and 2016, then volatility may have been reduced in some instances. The blue line shows the actual Washington-Arlington-Alexandria FMR for 2 Bedroom units. The orange line shows what a payment standard based on that FMR would have been, had it been held harmless.

WashDCHoldharmlessFMRChart-2010-2016

The HOTMA provision has the ability to reduce volatility in certain instances, though holding FMR payment standards harmless may have budget implications. Another point to remember is that when the payment standard starts being held harmless matters. In the chart above, if the payment standard starts being held harmless in 2013, then the volatility that results from increases in the FMR will still occur.

Although the chart above shows a payment standard based on a FMR being held harmless, the same principle would apply to payment standards based on SAFMRs.

[1] – 80 Fed. Reg. 77,124 (December 11, 2015).