Congress Holds Hearings on Oversight and Rental Assistance

On June 9, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a committee hearing on the oversight of housing regulators. The two witnesses at the hearing were Secretary Ben Carson of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Director Mark Calabria of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).    

Secretary Carson shared that HUD is working to meet all statutory requirements related to the distribution of CARES Act funds. Of the $12.4 billion that HUD received from the CARES Act, $9.1 billion has already been allocated. The remaining CDBG funds will be allocated by October 1st and the remaining ESG fund allocations were announced on the same day as the hearing. Regarding rent payments, Secretary Carson urged HUD-assisted renters to recertify their incomes with their local PHAs if they need lower rent payments due to COVID-19.   

A few Senators expressed their opinion that Americans need expanded rental assistance and unemployment benefits. Secretary Carson did not comment on any plans for future housing-related COVID-19 funding, other than to express that HUD will closely monitor the situation.   

This hearing was followed by a June 10 hearing held by the House Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance which featured four witnesses speaking about the impact COVID-19 will have on evictions and rental assistance.  

Cashuana Hill, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, spoke of the role systemic racism plays in housing segregation, as well as the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on black and Latino workers. She called for rental assistance programs to consider equity concerns and reduce housing discrimination.  

Mike Kringsella, the Executive Director of Up for Growth, claimed that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated a pre-existing housing shortage of roughly 7.3 million units, and urged Congress to provide additional renter assistance.  

Ann Oliva, a Visiting Senior Fellow from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, linked housing availability to public health and spoke of the importance a stable housing situation can play in helping people protect themselves from COVID-19. 

Jennty Schuetz, a Fellow from the Brookings Institute, noted that the federal government plays a smaller role in rental housing regulation than in the mortgage market – rental housing oversight is instead left to states, resulting in a patchwork of regulations. She added that an eviction moratorium is not a long-term solution, as owed rent builds up over time and small-scale landlords forgo revenue.  

The Subcommittee’s questions centered around possible funding mechanisms to disburse rental assistance, how to best promote racial equity in the disaster response, and how to help small landlords navigate loss of income and maintenance demand during the pandemic. 

NAHRO continues to advocate for affordable housing funding and effective, community-based policy solutions. Learn about NAHRO’s 2020 Legislative and Regulatory Agenda and more about NAHRO advocacy at www.nahro.org/advocacy.  

HUD Posts new FAQ on PBVs and Repositioning

HUD’s Office of Housing Choice Vouchers has published a Frequently-Asked-Questions (FAQ) document about project-based vouchers (PBVs) and public housing repositioning. Topics covered in the document include the following (taken from the table of contents):

  • Overview of Public Housing Repositioning Options;
  • Project-basing TPVs: General;
  • Project-basing TPVs: SAC Removal Tool Differences;
  • TPVs and Voucher Management System Reporting;
  • Project Basing: Existing Housing;
  • Competitive and Noncompetitive Selection;
  • Public Housing-Only Agencies;
  • PBV HAP Contract;
  • New Construction/Rehabilitation;
  • PBVs and PHA Annual Plan;
  • PBV General;
  • PBVs and Section 18;
  • PBVs and Section 22; and
  • Traditional PBVs in RAD Covered Projects.

Additionally, the document cites the appropriate statutory, regulatory, or guidance (e.g., PIH Notices) authority in its answers.

The FAQ may be found here.

June is 2020 National Homeownership Month

On Monday, President Trump proclaimed June as 2020 National Homeownership Month.  A press release issued by HUD notes that homeownership is a vital wealth-building tool for millions of American families, as well as a safe haven during the COVID-19 pandemic. The press release points to HUD work promoting homeownership, including through the Federal Housing Administration, which with a $1.3 trillion portfolio is the world’s largest mortgage insurer.  

HUD Posts COVID-19 Toolkit

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) has posted a COVID-19 Toolkit on the PIH Coronavirus webpage.

The toolkit consists of the following documents:

  • COVID-19 Quick Guide – a nine page document that provides PHAs “with considerations as they develop strategies to address the impact of the pandemic on their staff.”
  • COVID-19 Interaction Playbook for Housing Partners – an eight slide presentation (in PDF format) that lists points for safe distancing of staff, safe distancing of resident, safe distribution, responding to confirmed cases, other findings (e.g., residents will have reduced incomes, residents may not have access to the internet, etc.), case studies, and a slide with additional resources. [Google Chrome is the preferred browser to view this document.]
  • COVID-19 Guidance for Housing Partners – a one page document with points on safe goods and services distribution practices and safe visiting practices.
  • Coronavirus Prevention Flyer – a one page document created for residents.
  • PHA Disaster Readiness and Preparation Guide – a 28 page document from 2016 on general disaster readiness and preparation from HUD.

The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials is pleased that HUD created and distributed these best practices and resources.

These resources and other COVID-19 related resources, can be found at www.nahro.org/coronavirus.

[6/10/2020 edit – added NAHRO’s COVID-19 resources page.]

Second Allocation of ESG CARES Funding Released

Yesterday, HUD released its second allocation of Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) funding included in the CARES Act. The amount allocated totaled $2.96 billion. HUD will immediately begin distributing award letters notifying ESG Program recipients of their second allocation of CARES funding. The funds are available to be used to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Eligible recipients generally include states, metropolitan cities, urban counties and territories. Local governments may subgrant ESG funds to public housing agencies (PHAs) and local redevelopment authorities. 

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