Senate Holds Hearing on Energy-Efficient and Resilient Housing

With the looming threat of climate change and frequent natural disasters, there are more options available for energy-efficient, resilient, and weatherized housing. The upfront costs of these investments are too expensive for many low- and moderate-income households, however. The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee held a May 18th hearing to explore options for climate change-resilient housing.

Chairman Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) opened the hearing by connecting the housing affordability crisis to the issue of resilient housing: “Nearly one third of families said they had difficulty paying energy bills in 2020… We can build more housing protected from fires and floods, we can renovate and upgrade the homes we already have.”

Three expert witnesses testified for the committee. Ruth Ann Norton from the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative spoke about the relationship between housing quality and health outcomes such as childhood asthma. Krista Egger from Enterprise Community Partners spoke about the long-term financial benefits of installing energy efficient appliances and green standards in government-funded affordable housing. A witness from the Heritage Foundation, Katie Tubb, argued that energy-efficient and resilient housing is desirable, but that it should not be mandated or funded by Congress.

Ranking Member Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) agreed with Tubb that Americans who want to make their homes more resilient can do so without government intervention. In contrast, several other committee members spoke about bills they introduced to incentivize and support energy-efficient housing, especially for those living in affordable housing. The bills include:

The full hearing and witness testimonies are available on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee website.

Administration Announces Housing Supply Action Plan

On May 16, the administration announced a housing supply action plan that is intended to “ease the burden of housing costs over time, by boosting the supply of quality housing in every community.” The plan includes both legislative and administrative actions and is meant to align with other policies currently in effect (e.g., federal rental assistance) to create more affordable rents and make homeownership more affordable.

While the plan includes many specific actions, many of those actions can be grouped into the following categories.

  • Incentivizing jurisdictions to reform their zoning and land-use policies by giving higher scores to jurisdictions that do this in federal grant allocations.
  • Implementing new financing mechanisms to build and preserve housing, including manufactured housing; accessory dwelling units; two to four unit properties; and other multifamily buildings.
  • Improving existing federal financing for development and preservation, which includes making construction to permanent loans more available; promoting the use of COVID recovery funds for affordable housing; reforming the low-income housing tax credit and the HOME program.
  • Ensuring that more housing goes to owners that live in the units or non-profits that will rehabilitate them.
  • Addressing supply chain issues by working with the private sector.

The White House’s full announcement of their housing supply action plan can be found here.

HUD Proposes Final Rule to the FSS Program

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released its final rule, which will amend regulations to implement changes to the Family
Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. After consideration of public comments made about the new regulations in Section 306 of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, HUD has decided to further revise and incorporate the changes proposed in the previous amendments.

The final rule, which is targeted to improve the program for PHAs, multifamily property owners, and eligible families, will include several revisions. Some revisions include: allowing HCV and Section 8 families to be eligible for the FSS program; revising definitions; further revising the Contact of Participation (CoP); revising the lists of activities for which forfeited escrow funds may be used; and making changes to portability provisions.

The rule is set to go into effect 30 days after publication. Compliance of the proposed rule is required no later than 180 days after date of publication.

Further information on the FSS program can be found here.

The proposed rule from September 2020 can be found here.

Public Housing Residents and Section 8 Program Participants Eligible for Affordable Connectivity Program

Public housing residents and Section 8 program participants are eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The program provides a discount of up to $30 per month (and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying tribal lands) towards internet service for eligible households. Households can also receive up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute between $10 and $50 toward the purchase price.

To enroll in the program, a household has to do the following:

  1. Complete an online or mail-in application at ACPBenefit.org; and
  2. Contact a participating provider to select an internet plan and have the ACP discount applied.

There is a limit of one monthly service discount and one device per household.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has created a consumer outreach toolkit. The toolkit includes infographics, fact sheets, flyers, consumer handouts, audio public service announcements, videos, newsletter blurbs, press release text, and sample social media posts to help spread the word about the program. It also includes translations of some of the handouts, web resources, and a speaker request section.

Additional information on the Affordable Connectivity Program can be found here.

HUD’s guide to the program can be found here.

A program fact sheet can be found here.

The FCC’s ACP Consumer Outreach Toolkit can be found here.

MTW Expansion Cohort #4 – What Is It and How to Apply?

Wednesday, May 18th at 2 pm ET

HUD recently announced that they are accepting applications for admission into the Asset Building Cohort of the Moving to Work (MTW) Demonstration Program. The cohort will expand the overall program to an additional 30 PHAs with 6,000 combined units or less by the end of the year. NAHRO’s policy team will discuss the background to the MTW expansion, the asset building options for the new cohort, eligibility for the cohort, the application process, and the requirements of the application. There will be time to ask NAHRO staff questions.

Registration for the webinar can be found here.

MTW Notice on Fourth Cohort Application Process Published

Earlier today, HUD published Notice PIH 2022-11 which states the process by which PHAs may apply to participate in the fourth cohort of the Moving to Work (MTW) Program. The notice is titled “Request for Applications under the Moving to Work Demonstration Program: Asset Building Cohort.” MTW allows PHAs additional flexibilities to customize and implement innovative solutions that best serve the needs of a PHA’s community. Applications for this cohort are due on July 28, 2022.

In addition to providing full MTW flexibilities to chosen PHAs, this cohort will also seek to answer research questions related to “Asset Building Initiatives.” The Department seeks to find PHAs to fill 30 remaining slots available in the MTW expansion. Selected housing agencies will participate in one of three asset building initiatives, which encourage the growth of savings accounts or aim to build credit for assisted households. The asset building initiatives are the following:

  • Opt-Out Savings Account Option – PHAs must deposit a certain amount of funds per month into an escrow account on behalf of an assisted household.
  • Credit Building Option – PHAs must report public housing rent payments to credit bureaus.
  • PHA-Designed Asset Building Option – PHAs must design their own local asset building program.

HUD will conduct an informational webinar on May 24, 2022 at 2 pm ET. The Department will discuss the notice and an MTW agency will share its experience with asset building initiatives.

To join the webinar, at the appointed time, click here. To access the webinar by phone, dial 888-251-2949 or 215-861-0694 and use the access code 3334803# at the designated time.

NAHRO members will receive additional information on this notice in the near future.

Implementation Guidance for Section 3 Final Rule Issued

HUD has issued guidance on tracking and reporting compliance with the new requirements for the Section 3 Final Rule issued in September, 2020. The new guidance, Notice PIH 2022-10, discusses transition period activities, reporting, contracting and procurement, monitoring and compliance, recordkeeping, complaints, and training for Section 3. Section 3 requires PHAs and their contractors and subcontractors to give low- and very low-income persons training, employment, and economic opportunities, to their best efforts, when using certain federal funding, including public housing Operating and Capital funds.

For more information on the Section 3 final rule, see here. The Notice can be found here.

HUD Publishes Public Housing Dashboard

On April 14th, HUD published their new Public Housing Dashboard for public use. The dashboard consists of interactive data visualizations for several elements of the Public Housing program. Each page presents national-level Public Housing data with the opportunity to select data for specific areas or years. The dashboard provides information for the following topics:

  • Occupancy,
  • Funding,
  • Operating subsidy eligibility,
  • Resident demographics, and
  • Energy use.

The HUD website includes more specific guidance for using the dashboards.

The dashboard can be found here.

HUD Issues Notice on Submitting Consolidated and Annual Action Plans for FY 2022

In March, HUD submitted a notice to instruct all grantees of programs under the Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD) on the timing of their plan submissions. Programs within this notice include: the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME), Housing Trust Fund (HTF), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) and Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA).

The notice provides the following information:

  • Grantees and HOME participating jurisdictions (PJs) should not submit their Plans until the actual grant amounts have been determined and announced by HUD.
  • Instructions to grantees/PJs on waiver applications and CPD’s flexibility pertaining to consolidated planning citizen participation requirements for submissions.
  • Instructions to grantees/PJs regarding costs incurred prior to the execution of a grant agreement.
  • Waiver information for Entitlement CDBG grantees and HOME PJs that are meant to assist in the implementation of pre-award costs instructions.

HUD notes that the provisions within the notice apply equally to grantees’ 3-to 5-year Consolidated Plans as well as to annual Action Plans. This can apply as a stand-alone document or part of the overall Plan submission.

For questions concerning this notice, individuals should contact their local HUD Field Office Community Planning and Development Division.

Afghan Arrivals and USCIS SAVE Program Training

A recent email from HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing states that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and HUD will be holding training sessions for HUD staff and HUD-funded housing providers–including PHAs. The trainings will provide information and resources regarding Afghan arrivals, including federal benefits for which they may be eligible, documentation they may present to apply for benefits, and information on how to verify their immigration status using the SAVE program. These Afghan arrivals are people who entered the country through Operation Allies Welcome.

While USCIS and HUD will not record the training or distribute a copy of the presentation, much of the content can be found here.

Links to register for both training sessions may be found below. (Please note: although the registration links appear to sign the person registering for the webinar for an email newsletter, the links will actually register an individual for the webinar.)

  • Session 1: Thursday, April 7, 2022, 1:00 – 2:00 PM EDT 
  • Session 2: Thursday, April 14, 2022, 2:00 – 3:00 PM EDT