On December 5, HUD released Notice PIH 2016-22 (HA) titled “Environmental Review Requirements for Public Housing Agencies.” The notice provides information and guidance regarding Public Housing Agencies’ (PHAs) compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and other related laws. NEPA requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impact of proposed actions early in the planning and decision-making process to avoid and mitigate negative impacts to human health and the environment.
The notice clarifies the applicability of environmental reviews to all PHA activities at project site(s) assisted or to be assisted by HUD and to the use of all HUD funds, including operating funds. The notice also reiterates the prohibition on using any funding without environmental clearance, and presents submission and processing requirements using a five-year submission period as long as there are no changes to the project scope or environmental conditions. The notice also discusses the when PHAs are required to perform environment reviews for administrative, management, and certain maintenance activities and for Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) activities.
HUD considers an environmental review for a specific project to be valid for up to five years, so long as there are no changes to the project scope or environmental conditions. PHAs must request an environmental review for each environmental project site every five years. The following items are the responsibility of PHAs:
A. Identify Responsible Entity;
B. Designate Environmental Project Sites;
C. Prepare the Project Description;
D. Submit Project and Environmental Information to HUD or the Responsible Entity (RE);
E. Facilitate Public and Resident Notice and Participation;
F. Wait for Authorization to Use Grant Funds;
G. Abide by Review Requirements;
H. Advise of Changes in Scope or Conditions; and
I. Maintain Appropriate Records.
If a PHA fails to comply with the above-referenced requirements or the requirements of the notice, then HUD can pursue a wide range of remedies at its administrative discretion. PHAs are also required to conform with civil rights and fair housing laws, in addition to affirmatively furthering fair housing. This includes:
- Mandatory training with the goal to curtail future non-compliance;
- Corrective action plan tailored to the violation;
- Suspension of HUD funds used to finance the violating activity;
- Recapture of HUD funds used to finance the violating activity;
- Debarment/suspension of principals and housing authorities that engage in the noncompliant activity; and
- All other remedies at law.