HUD Posts First HCV Landlord Participation webinar

Earlier this week, HUD was supposed to livestream a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Landlord Participation webinar, but was unable to stream it because of technical difficulties. Despite the difficulties, the Department was able to record the webinar and has now made it publicly available. It can be found below.

Slides for the webinar can be found here.

Guidance on Assessing a Person’s Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Released

Labradoodle_Assistance_Dogs

Yesterday, HUD released a notice (FHEO-2020-01) titled “Assessing a Person’s Request to Have an Animal as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the Fair Housing Act.” The notice provides PHAs (and other housing providers) with a set of best practices to assess requests for reasonable accommodations to keep animals in housing while complying with the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

The notice states that FHA complaints involving requests for reasonable accommodations for assistance animals are on the rise. One of the purposes of this guidance is to help housing providers distinguish between a person with a non-obvious disability who has a legitimate need for an assistance animal and a person without a disability who wants to have a pet (or otherwise circumvent a rule applicable to a pet).

The guidance does several things. First, it provides a framework for identifying service animals. Second, it provides a framework to analyze reasonable accommodation requests under the Fair Housing Act for assistance animals other than service animals (There are two types of assistance animals–“service animals” and “support animals”; the latter are trained or untrained animals that do work, perform tasks, provide assistance, or emotional support for individuals with disabilities that do not fall under the service animals category). Third, the guidance provides criteria for assessing whether to grant a requested accommodation. Fourth, the guidance provides information on which types of animals (i.e., species of animals) are acceptable in which situations. Fifth, the guidance provides additional considerations that must be taken into account.

Additionally, there is a second section of the notice which provides a section on documenting an individual’s need for assistance animals in housing and provides a series of frequently-asked questions and accompanying answers.

The full guidance can be found here.

Supreme Court Allows Implementation of Public Charge Rule

The United States Supreme Court permitted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to make effective the administration’s public charge rule. The rule had been blocked from taking effect by a federal judge in New York. The Supreme Court allows it to be implemented in most of the country—except Illinois where it is still blocked. The rule states that any individual seeking a green card to become a lawful permanent resident (and individuals within the United States who hold non-immigrant visas and wish to extend their stay in the same non-immigrant classification or change their status to a different non-immigrant classification) is inadmissible if they are likely to become a public charge.

The rule defines a “public charge” based on the receipt of financial support from the general public through government funding, including federal rental assistance. The individual would need to receive one or more designated public benefits, including but not limited to federal rental assistance, for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period to meet the threshold.

The Department of Homeland Security is not imposing any requirements on benefit-granting agencies through this final rule or a requirement that these agencies specifically verify information individuals submit to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This rule does not change any of the Public Housing, HCV, or PBRA program requirements. The Department of Homeland Security plans to enter into information-sharing agreements with specific agencies (e.g., the Department of Housing and Urban Development) to obtain verification of the information supplied by applicants. Any information sharing will depend on the ability of the relevant agencies to share such information with DHS.

The final rule can be found here.

The Supreme Court’s opinion can be found here.

NAHRO’s one-page guidance on the Public Charge rule can be found here.

Policies and Procedures for Mainstream Vouchers Published

Earlier this week, HUD published a notice (PIH 2020-01) titled “Revised Policies and Procedures for the Mainstream Voucher Program.” The notice updates HUD’s policies related to the mainstream voucher program and applies to all mainstream vouchers. It became effective upon publication.

The notice lists mainstream  voucher policies. It clarifies who the eligible population for these vouchers are (households that include a non-elderly person with disabilities); clarifies that participants do not “age out” of eligibility; highlights that at turnover, all mainstream vouchers must be reissued to the next mainstream-eligible family; reiterates that mainstream vouchers are regular housing choice vouchers (HCVs) with special eligibility criteria; restates that the vouchers are for new admissions of households; and states that a PHA may only have one waiting list for all tenant-based assistance.

Additionally, the Department discusses admissions preferences. First, preferences apply to all vouchers, not only Mainstream vouchers. If a PHA claimed a preference in its notice of funding availability (NOFA) application, then the PHA must adopt a preference for at least one of the targeted groups in the NOFA. Additionally, PHAs may limit the number of applicants who qualify for the preference. The PHA also has the option to open the PHA waiting list for a limited preference. Finally, the PHA must update preference policies and procedures on how preferences will be applied.

The notice also discusses waiting list updates, portability, funding, tracking and monitoring these vouchers, and partnerships and supportive services.  Questions about the program can be directed to MainstreamVouchers@hud.gov.

The full notice can be found here.

Summary of HCV Landlord Listening Sessions Published

[1/29/2020 – Links to the summary have been updated to reference an updated version of the summary. The original summary has been removed from HUD’s website.]

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has published a summary of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program landlord listening sessions it conducted in late 2018. The summary lists the qualities of the HCV program which both attract and drive off landlords from participating in the program. A brief outline of them is presented below.

  • Qualities of the HCV program that attract landlords:
    • National;
      • Helping people who need housing;
      • Receiving a stable, reliable source of income from HUD;
    • Regional;
      • Required by law in some jurisdictions to accept vouchers; and
      • Existence of damage mitigation programs which help landlords repair tenant-caused damages;
  • Qualities of the HCV program that drive off landlords:
    • National;
      • No single point of contact for landlords and other communication deficiencies;
      • Inspections;
        • Delays in the inspection process;
        • Lack of consistency between inspections;
        • Not being informed of changed appointment times by inspectors;
        • Too few inspectors;
        • Not being informed of cancelled appointments in a timely manner;
      • Tenant damages;
        • Lacking a mechanism of collecting on tenant-caused damages;
        • Lacking a way to remove damage-causing tenants;
        • Requirements to repair a unit;
        • Unknown tenant-caused damages cause units to fail inspections;
      • Application and Move-in;
        • Concerns about
          • approved rent amounts;
          • length of time for application approval; and
          • inspections;
      • Voucher and Approved Rent amount;
        • Lack of clarity about required amenities and conditions of units;
        • Fair Market Rents (FMRs) not keeping pace with the local market;
      • Administrative delays;
        • Lack of being able to submit paperwork electronically;
        • Lack of staff that could approve cases during holidays and vacation times;
    • Regional;
      • Confusion over widely varying rent amounts in areas that use Small Area FMRs;
      • Annoyance at the different paperwork and rules for each PHA, in areas where there are multiple PHAs with overlapping jurisdictions;
      • Cumbersome process to access damage mitigation funds in those areas which use them; and
      • The requirement to treat voucher holders differently by requiring a one-year lease initially, when the norm in the market is month-to-month leases.

While the causes of landlord dissatisfaction are multi-faceted and may vary by jurisdiction, NAHRO believes that fully funding the administrative fee account will help PHAs address many of these issues.

The above is a brief outline of the report and excludes details for added brevity. The full summary can be found here.

HUD Adds Two New Procedures to NSPIRE Demonstration

After meeting with key resident stakeholders to discuss HUD’s new National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE) Demonstration, HUD will test for the best method to add two new procedures into the Demonstration. First, HUD will test for the best method to include up to five additional resident units in the inspection, identified by a resident group, to increase the transparency and trust in the demonstration. If no resident group is available to identify five additional units, HUD will use a risk model to select the additional units. Second, HUD is researching the best practices for stakeholder engagement through the design and conduct of resident surveys.

New Proposed Fair Housing Rule

Earlier this week, HUD published a new proposed fair housing rule titled “Fair Housing Act Design and Construction Requirements; Adoption of Additional Safe Harbors.” The Fair Housing Act provides that unlawful discrimination against persons with disabilities includes the failure to properly design and construct certain multifamily dwellings. This proposed rule would amend HUD’s regulations to incorporate the 2009 edition of International Code Council (ICC) Accessible and Usable Building and Facilities (ICC A117.1-2009) as satisfying the design and construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act. The proposed rule would also designate the 2009, 2012, 2015, and 2018 editions of the International Building Code (IBC) as safe harbors under the Fair Housing Act.

Comments on this proposed rule are due on March 16, 2020.

A press release from HUD can be found here.

The proposed rule can be found here.

Webinar for Vera’s Opening Doors to Public Housing Initiative

The Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) is offering a webinar that promises to inform potential applicants about the goals of the Opening Doors to Public Housing Initiative. The Opening Doors to Public Housing Initiative seeks to provide technical assistance to PHAs that wish to plan and implement reentry programs or change their admissions policies for people with conviction histories. Additionally, the webinar will provide an overview of the application requirements, allow time for questions from interested applicants, and present applicants from past Opening Doors sites who will share their experiences implementing reentry programs and changing their housing policies.

Housing authorities and their justice system partners are strongly encouraged to participate in the webinar, though it is open to all.

Opening Doors to Public Housing (Friday, January 17, 2020 at 1 pm ET)

  • Presenters include the following:
    • Andre Bethea, Policy Advisor, Corrections, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice;
    • Laura Gregory, Resident Services Manager, Oklahoma City Housing Authority; and
    • Julio Sanchez, Senior Probation & Parole Officer, Delaware Correctional Reentry Commission (DCRC) In-reach Coordinator, Georgetown Probation & Parole.

The webinar registration can be found here.

Voucher Reporting Deadlines

Earlier today, HUD’s Financial Management Division sent an email with two reporting deadlines for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. These deadlines are the following:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020 – for December 2019 Voucher Management System (VMS) reporting and prior period adjustments (including 2019 cash management adjustments) to be entered; and
  • Friday, Feb., 21, 2020 – all Public Housing Information Center (PIC) reporting must be up to date.

Questions can be directed to your PHA’s FMC Financial Analyst or sent to PIH.Financial.Management.Division@hud.gov.

Proposed Changes to NEPA Released

Today, in the Federal Register, The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has announced a proposed rulemaking updating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Currently, PHAs must follow HUD regulations that are bound by NEPA regulations. As such, these changes to NEPA regulations will require HUD to update their environmental review regulations once a final NEPA rule goes into effect.

Comments on the CEQ’s proposed rule update NEPA are due March 10. Comments should be submitted to regulations.gov.

A press release on the update can be found here.

The proposed rule can be found here.