ROSS NOFA Released

On July 19, HUD released the NOFA for FY 2021 funding for the Resident Opportunity & Self Sufficiency Service Coordinator (ROSS-SC) program. ROSS-SC grant funding allows eligible applicants to hire a Service Coordinator who assesses the needs of Public and Indian housing residents and links them to local training and supportive services. The ROSS-SC grant also provides funding for grantees to provide direct services to further support the work of the ROSS-SC and the goals of the ROSS program. FY 2021 funding for ROSS was $35 million. Award ceilings are at $737,500. Eligible applicants can apply at grants.gov.

Congress Holds Hearing on Expanding Housing Access to All Americans

On July 14, the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on “Expanding Housing Access to All Americans.” The hearing covered a variety of housing and community development topics, including the recent increase in home prices, low rate of home construction, tax credits, and rental assistance. Subcommittee members from both parties agreed on the dire need for more affordable rental homes and homeownership across the nation.

Five witnesses joined the hearing to provide expert testimony. They included:

  • Jeff Tucker: Senior Economist, Zillow
  • Gerald Howard Jr.: CEO, National Association of Home Builders
  • Staci Berger: President and CEO, Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey
  • Lilian Faulhaber: Professor of Law, Georgetown University
  • John Persinger: CEO, Erie Downtown Development Corporation

The first two witnesses testified about the extreme mismatch of supply and demand in the current homeownership market. Faulhaber and Persinger spoke about tax credits and other community development tools, including the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and Opportunity Zones. Persinger also pointed out that his community needs more resources to fill financial gaps in redeveloping aging housing stock. Finally, Berger mentioned the recent National Low-Income Housing Coalition Out of Reach report, which finds that minimum wage workers cannot afford a moderate, two-bedroom rental unit anywhere in the country.

Following the testimonies, subcommittee members questioned the witnesses. Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) discussed the Housing Trust Fund and LIHTC with Berger, asking how nonprofit developers can use the two programs together to develop affordable housing in high-cost areas. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) noted that the lack of affordable housing in her community is blocking job growth. Many workers cannot afford to live near employment opportunities because the cost of housing in those neighborhoods is too high.

Several members asked further questions about access to homeownership, including Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA). The Congressman had a conversation with the witnesses about the need to address the racial disparity in homeownership rates. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-NY) expressed his concern that many young people are unable to purchase homes in the current market without financial assistance. Subcommittee members and witnesses both offered potential policy solutions that could address these affordable housing and homeownership challenges.

The recorded hearing and witness testimonies are available on the Ways and Means Committee website.

Extended Deadline and New Webinar for MTW Landlord Incentives Cohort

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has extended the deadline for the Moving to Work (MTW) Demonstration Expansion under the Landlord Incentives Cohort to October 15, 2021. The department will hold a webinar for PHAs interested in applying on July 20, 2021 at 1:30 EST to learn more about the application process, ask questions, and hear from current MTW PHAs.  

MTW agencies have the ability to waive certain statutory requirements to create more flexible, locally-designed approaches. The Landlord Incentive Cohort (MTW Cohort #4) must use at least two MTW activities designed for their cohort, including flexibility around payment standards and small area fair market rent, vacancy loss and damage claims, inspections, a signing bonus for new landlords, and more.

To attend the webinar:

Step 1:  Dial into the conference. 

  • Dial-in: 888-251-2949 or 215-861-0694 
  • Access Code: 4047630#  

Step 2: Join the conference on your computer.

For technical assistance:

  • Audio Connection: 1-888-796-6118
  • WebEx Connection: 1-888-793-6118

To learn more about the Landlord Incentives MTW cohort, see here. For a complete list of approved cohort activities, see here.

HUD-VASH Registration of Interest Notice Made Public

In an email to Executive Directors, HUD attached the HUD-VASH Registration of Interest Notice (PIH 2021-21). The notice provides $49 million for new HUD-VASH assistance. The 2021 Appropriations Act provides $40 million, while the additional $9 million is from prior appropriations. HUD estimates that this funding has the potential to fund 6,000 new vouchers.

Awards of vouchers will follow a two-step process. First, eligible PHAs will respond to the notice with an email and a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) letter of support. Second, registered PHAs will receive an invitation to apply for a specific number of vouchers based on a “relative need” formula.

Registrations of interest should be submitted electronically to VASH_ROI@hud.gov no later than August 31, 2021.

Although not yet published on HUD’s website, the HUD-VASH registration of interest notice may be found here.

A document explaining the benefits of project-basing HUD-VASH vouchers can be found here.

A slide deck explaining the notice may be found here.

HUD Updates Emergency Housing Vouchers FAQ to Version 4

HUD has updated the Emergency Housing Vouchers (EHVs) frequently asked questions (FAQ) to version 4. The document covers questions on eligibility; partnerships and collaborations; voucher administration; administrative and service fees; portability; reporting requirements; EHV voucher allocation; EHV voucher acceptance/rejection process; Moving to Work (MTW); and Housing location and landlord resources.

Version 4 of the document can be found here.

CY 2021 Interim Operating Fund Grant Eligibility

HUD has updated the Public Housing Operating Fund Grant interim eligibility for calendar year 2021. PHAs can find their interim eligibility in the Operating Fund Web Portal in the PHA Form 52723/52722 module. PHAs have until August 16, 2021 to request revisions to their Operating Fund eligibility by email to their Field Office. Reasons that HUD may revise Operating Fund eligibility can be found listed in Section 12 of Notice PIH-2021-04, “Submission of Requests for Revision to the CY 2-21 OpFund Grant Eligibility.” PHAs should contact their local field office with any questions.

Join Us!! NAHRO Summer Symposium is Tomorrow!

Please join National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) for our 2021 Summer Symposium on universal vouchers and expansion of the housing voucher program tomorrow, July 13, 2021. There is no cost to attend the NAHRO Summer Symposium! Register at https://www.nahro.org/events/summer-symposium/registration/.

The NAHRO Summer Symposium is a day-long event on the present and future of the Housing Choice Voucher program. The event will bring thought leaders from across the country along with housing industry professional together to discuss the expansion of the housing voucher program. There is no registration fee to attend the Summer Symposium. Anyone interested can register at https://www.nahro.org/events/summer-symposium/registration/ for the July 13, 2021 NAHRO Summer Symposium.

July Operating Fund Delayed

Due to unforeseen technical issues, HUD will delay the release of the July Operating Fund subsidy. HUD anticipates that July’s obligations will be available in eLOCCS no later than July 8, 2021. PHAs should use available reserves to cover any immediate or unanticipated cost. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your local HUD field office.

White House Summit on Eviction Prevention Best Practices

At a White House summit on eviction prevention, researchers and experts in the field shared resources and best practices from around the country.

After outlining documented long-term health and economic impacts of evictions, Matthew Desmond, director of the Eviction Lab at Princeton, focused on the problems present in eviction courts. Since so few municipalities guarantee families facing an eviction the right to counsel, many families simply don’t show up because they don’t think they can win. Labeling eviction courts those without “justice or fairness,” Desmond called for advocates to focus three alternate approaches:

  1. Advocacy – including the right to counsel, with either a lawyer or a caseworker
  2. Assistance – wraparound social services
  3. Alternative Processes – eviction diversion  

Desmond urged advocates to focus as much as possible on early stage interventions, because a third of families move between notice and filing, court records can follow families and make it harder to move into a good home, and because families can still end up moving or being harmed by court proceedings without an official eviction. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta also recommended that state courts consider issuing orders requiring landlords to apply for emergency rental assistance before filing, and alerting litigants about availability of rental assistance.  

To help stand up new eviction diversion programs that include these three pieces, the National Center for State Courts has developed an eviction diversion program that offers models, resources, and technical assistance here. Multiple administration officials repeated in today’s summit that Treasury made it clear that the $350 billion from the American Rescue Plan can be used for court-supported eviction diversion programs.

Best Practices

Experts from the field then shared their knowledge about how to make these programs work in practice. Rasheedah Phillips, Managing Attorney of Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bridget Mary McCormack both recommended that diversion programs need a right to counsel or other tenant representation. Philadelphia passed a right to counsel law in 2019, and uses trained mediators, housing counselors, and legal representation depending on tenant need. However, Michigan has only included a right to counsel in its emergency diversion program for COVID, and it has made a significant difference in both application rates and successful cases. Prior to this program, only 4% of tenants in Detroit had representation in eviction cases.

Philadelphia has also recently passed the Renters Access Act, which prohibits landlords from rejecting potential tenants solely because of evictions or low credit scores, prohibits rejections based on failure to pay rent or utility bills during the pandemic, and requires landlords to inform potential tenants why they were rejected.

From the landlord perspective, Gilbert Winn of WinnCompanies, which houses over 45,000 tenants in more than 15 states, spoke about the program his company launched to prevent evictions, which WinnCompanies believes can serve as a blueprint for other landlords going forward. This included:

  • Long-term, sustainable payment agreements to have backpay addressed
  • Pre-court checklist before any staff can file for eviction
  • Incentives to property staff and property legal counsel to lower eviction filings

With zero evictions in the last 15 months with all 15,000 participating families, the program has been extremely successful, and WinnCompanies intends to use it into the post-pandemic period.

More resources on eviction prevention can be found here.

Eviction Moratorium Upheld by US Supreme Court

On June 29, 2021, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, allowed a stay of a US District Court order vacating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Eviction Moratorium to stay in place. This means that the recently extended CDC Eviction Moratorium will remain in effect until July 31, 2021.

Justice Kavanaugh in a short opinion stated that, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its existing statutory authority by issuing a nationwide eviction moratorium.” Justice Kavanaugh further went on to say that because July 31, 2021 is only a “few weeks” away and those weeks will allow for additional time to distribute the Emergency Rental Assistance Program funds appropriated by Congress; therefore, Justice Kavanaugh voted to deny the removal of the stay.

NAHRO encourages PHAs, property owners, and landlords to use the resources available in HUD’s updated Eviction Prevention and Stability Toolkit to work with the residents to minimize evictions.