HUD Releases PHAS High Performers List

HUD has released its list of PHAS High Performers for Federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Capital Fund calculations. For the Department’s preparations for calculating the Capital Fund formula for FY 2017, the Department is using the FY 2015 PHAS designations to determine which PHAs are on the High Performer bonus for the 2017 formula calculations. PHAs should validate whether they are on the High Performer list by reviewing the Capital Fund Calculation spreadsheet (available on the Office of Capital Improvements website).

PHAs that believe there is an error in the calculation of their PHAS score for FY 2015 must email an explanation of the error to the Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) at PHAS@hud.gov no later than October 31.

SAFMR Demonstration Evaluation and Section 8 Eligibility of Students Guidance

Tomorrow, HUD will publish in the Federal Register two notices dealing with the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. The first is a proposed information collection highlighting a series of interviews for landlords and tenants in areas served by the five PHAs that participated in the Small Area Fair Marker Rents (SAFMR) Demonstration. The second is guidance for the rule that excludes certain individuals enrolled in an institution of higher education from receiving Section 8 funds.

  • Small Area Fair Market Rent Demonstration – HUD is evaluating the SAFMR demonstration. To assist in this evaluation, HUD is looking at how “voucher holders and landlords perceive the shift from traditional area-wide FMRs to SAFMRs.” HUD will interview 70 tenants and 35 landlords in the areas served by the five PHAs in the SAFMR demonstration.
  • Eligibility of Independent Students for Assisted Housing Under Section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937; Additional Supplementary Guidance – Prior appropriations acts stated that if a college student “is under the age of 24, is not a veteran, is unmarried and does not have dependent child” or is ineligible or has at least one parent that is ineligible for assistance, then no Section 8 assistance can be provided for that student. This notice updates the list of items that PHAs, owners, and managers “are required to verify when determining whether a student’s income alone should be used to determine Section 8 eligibility.” The notice also reduces “barriers for vulnerable youth to receive assistance and continue their education.”

The SAFMR Demonstration pre-publication notice can be found here.

The Eligibility of Independent Students for Section 8 Assistance Guidance pre-publication notice can be found here.

PHA AFH Tool updated by HUD

An updated Public Housing Authority (PHA) Analysis of Fair Housing (AFH) Tool that takes into account public comments HUD received has been posted for public inspection. HUD continues to state that they are committed to issuing an additional AFH Tool specifically for Qualified-PHAs (QPHA.) To that end, the PHA AFH Tool is intended to be used by non-QPHAs and QPHAs that are collaborating with non-QPHAs.

HUD has made a number of updates to the PHA AFH Tool. The NAHRO Policy Team will continue to review and provide additional analysis of this notice. Below is a brief list of the PHA AFH Tool updates:

  1. QPHA Insert – This insert is to be used by QPHAs that collaborate with non-QPHAs and covers the required analysis of the QPHA’s service area.
  2. Contributing Factors – HUD added and made small changes to the descriptions of contributing factors.
  3. Disparities in Access to Opportunities – The number of questions has been reduced and references to PHA waiting lists have been removed.
  4. Disability and Access – Two additional question have been added to the tool that relate to interaction of PHAs and individuals with disabilities.
  5. Instructions – Various sections of the instructions have been updated to provide clarity.
  6. Fair Housing Analysis of Rental Housing – This section only applies to PHAs that administer a Housing Choice Voucher program and not to PHAs that are Public Housing only.
  7. Enhancements for PHAs in the Data and Mapping Tool – Specific maps and date related to PHAs are planned along with enhancing the functionality of the maps.

This notice requests comment be submitted within 30 days of issuance. HUD is requesting comment on the notice generally and on 15 specific questions, listed at the end of the notice. NAHRO members should review this notice and provide their comments to HUD. NAHRO will also be providing comment on behalf of our members.

Public inspection of the updated PHA AFH Tool can be done at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2016-22594.pdf.

HUD Guidance on Limited English Proficiency and the Fair Housing Act

On September 15, HUD released a Press Release noting that the Office of General Council issued new guidance on the application of the Fair Housing Act to a housing provider’s consideration of a person’s limited ability to read, write, speak or understand English. The guidance “specifically addresses how the disparate treatment and discriminatory effects methods of proof apply in Fair Housing Act cases in which a housing provider bases an adverse housing action – such as a refusal to rent or renew a lease – on an individual’s limited ability to read, write, speak or understand English.”

The guidance notes that:

  • Using a person’s LEP to intentionally discriminating against someone because of race, national origin, or another protected characteristic is considered in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
  • Intentional discrimination may involve imposing restrictions, targeting individuals for unfair or illegal housing-related services, or failing to comply with the requirement to provide housing-related language assistance services to LEP persons.
  • Housing providers may also be in violation of the Fair Housing Act if the provider’s policy has an unjustified discriminatory effect, even when the provider had no intent to discriminate.
  • Three steps are used to analyze claims that a housing provider’s use of LEP results in an unjustified discriminatory effect: assessing the discriminatory effect; evaluating whether the challenged policy or practice is necessary to achieve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest; and evaluating whether there is a less discriminatory alternative.

Cut-Off Date to Drawdown FY 2009 HUD Grant Funds

On September 15, HUD sent out an email reminding recipients of HUD funds that FY 2009 grant funds are expiring at the end of this month. Grantees must submit drawdown approvals for these funds by September 16, 2016. The email also notes that “[f]or other funds not approaching expiration, grantees can continue to enter draw down requests to September 28th and the draw will be processed before HUD’s accounting system closes. If a disbursement is received by the Line of Credit Control System (LOCCS) (directly, or via IDIS or DRGR) after September 28th, the request will not be processed until HUD’s accounting system is reopened. HUD’s accounting system is expected to reopen in early October.”

HUD OIG Releases Report on Operating Fund Calculations

This week HUD’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report that found HUD did not always accurately verify Operating Fund calculations. Although the report found HUD did not always verify the calculation of Operating Fund subsidies, it did note that HUD recaptured the funds once it determined that excess subsidies were provided to PHAs. According to the OIG, more than $12 million in operating funds disbursed to PHAs was not adequately supported, and $116,218 was ineligible.

The report recommends that HUD officials:

  • determine whether any of the overpayment of $3.6 million was ineligible and recover the ineligible payments;
  • recapture from PHAs the $116,218 ineligibly disbursed for the units that exceeded the limit;
  •   obtain documentation of the utility expense level amounts and verify the accuracy of the computation of $9 million of Operating Fund subsidies and recapture ineligible amounts;
  • enhance controls to ensure that verification procedures for Operating Fund calculations are followed by field office staff;
  • continue implementing the reconciliation software application to provide greater assurance that operating fund subsidies are accurately calculated based on correct data, and;
  • strengthen controls over record keeping.

 

HUD Finalizes Rule to Protect Victims of Harassment

HUD has announced that it will publish final rule titled “Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices under the Fair Housing Act” on September 14, 2016. This final rule will formalize the standards for use in investigations and adjudications involving allegations of harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability. The rule defines and specifies how HUD will evaluate “hostile environment” and “quid pro quo” harassment claims under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and clarifies the operation of traditional principles of direct and vicarious liability in the FHA context. The final rule will become effective 30 days after it’s publication in the Federal Register.

During the proposed rulemaking stage of this final rule, NAHRO submitted comments to HUD commending the Department’s objective to protect individuals who experience harassment. NAHRO also expressed concerns over some aspects of the proposed rule, particularly the proposed rule’s definition of “direct liability” and the unintended consequences that may arise from that definition. Under the proposed rule, a housing provider and their employees and agencies would be held directly liable when it fails to “fulfill a duty to take prompt action to correct and end a discriminatory housing practice by a third-party.” NAHRO’s comment letter expressed concern over scenarios where the third party is outside the scope of control of the principal.

Along with the final rule, HUD’s Office of General Counsel is issuing Fair Housing Act guidance on local ‘nuisance ordinances’ that may lead to housing discrimination against survivors of domestic violence and other persons in need of emergency services. HUD’s press release on the final rule can be accessed here.

Deeper analysis of the final rule and guidance will be forthcoming for NAHRO members.

 

HUD to Release Long-Term Outcomes of Family Options Study

On October 25, HUD will release the long-term outcomes of the Family Options Study. The study was a “multi-site random assignment experiment designed to study the impact of various housing and services interventions for homeless families.” Homeless families across the nation in twelve communities were assigned one of four possible interventions:

  1. subsidy only;
  2. project-based transitional housing;
  3. community-based rapid re-housing; or
  4. usual care.

Families were tracked for a minimum of 37 months and metrics on housing stability, family preservation, adult well-being, and self-sufficiency were collected.

HUD will be announcing the long term results of the interventions on October 25. The event can be attended in person at the Brooke-Mondale Auditorium at HUD Headquarters or via webcast.

Register for the event here.

Friday Night Wrap-Up

Summer may officially be over, but it still feels very much like July here in DC (mostly because it’s about 197 degrees today); Congress returned to Capitol Hill on Monday, picking up where they left their negotiations over the upcoming fiscal year.

It’s a foregone conclusion at this point that a continuing resolution will be necessary to avoid a government shutdown on the first day of the new fiscal year, October 1. Prior to Congress’ early departure for the August recess in July, some lawmakers floated the idea of a six month CR that would delay final FY 2017 spending decisions until after the new Congress and the President swear into office (and right around the time the debt ceiling is set to expire).

This idea seems to have varying amounts of (seemingly dwindling) traction on Capitol Hill. However, the main driver behind the push is the House Freedom Caucus, which still feels burned by the work on appropriations, the budget, and taxes that was done very quickly at the end of calendar year 2015 without their input or support. Ideally, the House Freedom Caucus would like to entirely eliminate the Lame Duck session of Congress immediately following the election and adjourn the 114th Congress for the final time when lawmakers leave Washington for the election recess in October. Understanding that this is extremely unlikely to happen, they’ve targeted the CR as one of the main drivers of action during the Lame Duck session and are aiming to avoid quick spending decisions in December.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who in the past had seemed somewhat open to a longer-term CR, signaled this week that he would like to move a CR that would expire on December 9 to the Senate floor as early as next week. Recognizing that a CR that expires in March was unlikely to gain enough Democratic support in the Senate to pass and, even if it did pass, would be vetoed by the President, Majority Leader McConnell made the decision to move quickly on a shorter-term bill to allow ample time for the House to work out their issues and approve a CR. Rumors are circulating of issues and Senators who could raise an objection to a CR blocking it from moving forward, though it doesn’t appear any actual plan to object has been substantiated. So, at this point, I am planning to watch for a vote on a two(ish) month CR in the Senate next week, but I will not be surprised when an issue like Zika delays it. 

Whether or not the House Freedom Caucus will cause major problems for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) in his attempt to pass what is (eventually) sent over by the Senate is still unclear. The position of the caucus has not changed, but appears that progress was made today in a closed-door meeting with the House Republican Conference. A shutdown during an election year is highly unlikely, especially considering that House Democrats would probably support a straight CR, but I wouldn’t rule out considerable drama and suspense leading up to the end of the fiscal year. Remember last year, even though there wasn’t much of a threat of a shutdown, House Freedom Caucus members still managed to oust Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) from both his Speaker position and Congress (though the jury is still out on the actual reason why he resigned).

Another complicating factor that makes a longer-term CR even more unlikely is the score the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently assigned to a theoretical year-long CR for FY 2017: $1.08 trillion, which is $10 billion higher than the allowable cap set by the 2015 budget deal. This is caused by several factors, mainly spending cuts (CHIMPS) from FY 2016 that do not automatically continue into FY 2017. If a long-term CR is approved, appropriators will have to either find ways to offset the additional spending, cut specific programs, or allow across the board spending cuts in order to avoid triggering the automatic sequestration that is still in place until FY 2020. The longer the CR, the more difficult offsetting that spending becomes.

To make matters more complicated, only the non-defense discretionary accounts are over the cap, not defense, so drafting any CR that would violate the FY 2017 cap would transform a simple date change in the existing appropriations law to either a much more complicated task or a huge political fight over cutting defense spending. And in election years when Congress can delay controversial decisions, the delay typically wins out.

I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to provide a very short update next week that the Senate has approved a CR that expires on December 9 , but we’ll keep you updated if anything changes throughout the week.

 Have a great weekend!!

-Tess

 

HUD Webinar on Housing Mobility Resources and Initiatives

I received information from a HUD official about a webinar on Housing Mobility Resources and Initiatives on Thursday, September 22. Here’s the information that I received ( I also linked to information on the web about the panelists).

Housing Mobility Resources and Initiatives

To register, please complete the following steps:

  1. Please visit this link. This will expedite the process of joining the webinar on Sept. 22. The email confirmation of registration will include an Outlook calendar item that you can use to get the event on your calendar.
  2. If you have not used WebEx before, we suggest you install the WebEx Event Center ahead of time so you are ready to go when the event starts. You can do so by clicking on this link.
  3. If you haven’t installed the software ahead of time, it will automatically install when you start the webinar.  Installing it ahead of time will allow you to trouble shoot any problems that may arise ahead of time.
  4. On Sept. 22, before the 1 p.m. webinar starts, visit this link to start the webinar.
  5. You have two options for audio.  You can choose to access audio through the computer by selecting that option after starting the webinar or you can dial-in by phone using this conference line:

1-415-655-0002
Access code: 312 179 805.