Opportunity Zone Hearing on February 14 at 10am

The Treasury department has announced that on February 14 at 10am a public hearing will be held on proposed regulations concerning investing in qualified opportunity funds (QOF). February 14 is the new date for the Opportunity Zone public hearing that was originally scheduled for January 10 but was canceled due to the lapse in Federal appropriations.

The public hearing will focus on the proposed regulations that provide guidance under new section 1400Z-2 of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) relating to gains that may be deferred as a result of a taxpayer’s investment in a qualified opportunity fund (QOF).

The hearing is open to the public and will be held in the IRS Auditorium, Internal Revenue Service Building, 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. At this time, it does not appear that there will be a telephone or web-based broadcast of the hearing. NAHRO will attend the hearing and provide a summary of the hearing to our members.

Additional information on the February 14 Opportunity Zone public hearing can be found in the pre-publication Federal Register notice.

 

HUD Funds Available for February, But Not for March

NAHRO has learned that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has enough money to ensure that February payments for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program and the public housing Operating Fund will be made available to public housing authorities (PHAs). HUD intends to make those payments on time. NAHRO has also learned that there is not currently enough money to make HCV and Operating Fund payments for March, if the government shutdown continues until then.

In order to end the government shutdown, Congress must agree to a funding bill. Now is the time to reach out to your Congresspeople and demand that a fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill for HUD is passed. NAHRO has prepared a letter that can be sent to your Congressional members through the NAHRO Advocacy Action Center.

As PHAs make their voices heard to Congress, NAHRO will continue to fight for you and the families you serve and will continue to inform members as soon as we learn more.

Secretary Carson to Lead Opportunity and Revitalization Council

In a press release published earlier today, HUD announced that the President established the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council and named Secretary Carson its chairperson. The White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council’s activities include the following:

  • Engage all levels of government on methods to effectively use taxpayer dollars to revitalize low-income communities;
  • Streamline, coordinate, and target existing Federal programs to Opportunity Zones and distressed communities;
  • Consider legislative proposals and undertake regulatory reform to remove barriers to revitalization; and
  • Present the President with options to encourage capital investment in economically distressed communities.

Secretary Carson has said that “[t]hese are still early days for the work of the Council and Opportunity Zones, but the groundwork has been laid . . . [t]he seeds the President has planted are growing and the promise they hold will improve places long forgotten, and the lives of those who call those places home.”

The full press release can be found here.

NAHRO Submits Comments on AFFH Rule Streamlining

Earlier this week, NAHRO responded to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s or the Department’s) request for comments on streamlining the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule by submitting a comment letter. The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials remains committed to following through on the promise of the Fair Housing Act and its duty to affirmatively further fair housing. At the same time, NAHRO believes that to create a workable rule that delivers results while appropriately balancing the goals of the Fair Housing Act with the limited resources found in communities throughout the United States, certain principles should be followed in refining the AFFH rule.

These general principles are as follows:

  • Entities should not be forced to complete analyses on non-housing factors;
  • Entities should not be forced to complete analyses outside their jurisdiction;
  • Additional funding is required to properly conduct fair housing assessments;
  • Housing agencies should be able to complete any required assessments without having to hire a consultant;
  • The Department should accept and approve assessments for entities that have made a good faith effort to comply with the assessment process;
  • The Department should provide clear, regularly updated guidance for completing assessments;
  • The assessments should provide a greater emphasis on place-based solutions; and
  • The Department should closely follow all requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and any other process requirements required by law.

The comment letter–after providing background on how HUD substantially deviated from modest recommendations of prior technocratic reports by HUD and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2009 and 2010 respectively–responds to specific inquiries requested by HUD. The comment letter also recommends changes to the definition of “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” and “Qualified PHA.”

The full comment letter can be found here.

Federal Judge Dismisses AFFH Suit

In an opinion published on Friday, a federal judge dismissed a suit brought by several fair housing organizations. The fair housing groups wanted HUD to reinstate the local government assessment tool as part of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) process. The court found that the groups did not meet the requirements to sue and that even if they did, HUD should not be required to reinstate the local government tool.

After providing background information and describing the relevant law, the opinion discussed three issues. First, whether the fair housing groups had standing (i.e., met the legal requirements to sue); second, whether the fair housing groups were entitled to a preliminary injunction reinstating the assessment tool for local governments; and third, whether New York State could join the suit. The court found that the fair groups lacked standing (i.e., did not meet the legal requirements to bring suit); that even if they had standing, they were not entitled to a preliminary injunction ordering that the local government tool be reinstated; and that New York State could not join the suit.

Fair Housing Groups Lack Standing

The court found that the fair housing groups lacked standing and could not bring a suit. Although the court found multiple reasons why the fair housing groups lacked standing, the court focused most of its analysis on how there was a lack of injury to the fair housing groups by the withdrawal of the local government tool. The court found that the withdrawal of the local government tool did not impair the mission of the fair housing groups because many aspects of the AFFH rule remain in place, including the new community participation requirements, which give the fair housing groups continuing opportunities to participate in a more robust Analysis of Impediments (AI) process. The court also found that withdrawal of the local government tool did not cause a drain of the fair housing groups’ resources because they are engaged in the same types of activities that they were undertaking before the withdrawal of the local government tool and because withdrawal of the tool does not require that the groups spend more on operational costs. Finally, the court also found that the fair housing groups lacked the other elements of standing–causation and redressability.

Fair Housing Groups Not Entitled to a Preliminary Injunction

The court found that even if the fair housing groups had standing, they were not entitled to a preliminary injunction. Again, although there were several reasons why they were not entitled to a preliminary injunction, the court focused its analysis on showing why the fair housing groups were unlikely to succeed on the merits of the case. First, the court noted that withdrawal of the local government tool did not require notice-and-comment procedures (these are the procedures used in the informal rulemaking process when an agency is creating a regulation) because the local government tool is properly characterized as an “information collection” and not subject to notice-and-comment procedures. Second, the court found that the withdrawal of the tool was not arbitrary or capricious because HUD provided adequate reasoning for its decision to withdraw the local government tool (HUD noted the high failure rate of program participants to submit acceptable first-time submissions and the high costs of scaling up technical assistance for future submissions). The court also did not find the other factors needed for a preliminary injunction including a risk of irreparable harm, a balance of equities in favor of the fair housing groups, or an accord with the public interest.

New York State May Not Join the Suit

The court found that New York State may not join the suit because, like the fair housing groups, it lacked standing because of a lack of injury.

The full opinion can be found here.

HUD to Reopen AFFH Rule

Earlier today, HUD published a press release announcing that it published a notice inviting public comment on amendments to its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation.

[8/16/18 Edit – the notice has been published in the Federal Register. It can be found here. The comment due date is October 15, 2018.]

The Department wishes to receive comments on amending the rule so that it does the following:

  1. minimizes regulatory burden while more effectively aiding program participants to meet their statutory obligations;
  2. creates a process focused primarily on accomplishing positive results, rather than on analysis;
  3. provides for greater local control and innovation;
  4. seeks to encourage actions that increase housing choice, including through greater housing supply; and
  5. more efficiently utilizes HUD resources.

Currently, HUD has suspended the obligation of local governments to file Assessments of Fair Housing (AFHs) using the local government tool. The Department believed that the tool was “confusing, difficult to use, contained errors, and frequently produced unacceptable assessments, and otherwise required an unsustainable level of technical assistance.” There is currently a lawsuit brought by three civil rights groups filed against HUD on its action suspending requirements of the rule.

NAHRO will provide additional information to our members as we continue to read through the notice and as additional information becomes available.

The Department’s press release can be found here.

A pre-publication copy of the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking can be found here.

[8/16/18 Edit – the published copy can be found here.]

HUD Begins EnVision Center Demonstration

In a press release earlier today, HUD announced the names of the first 17 communities that will receive EnVision Center designations. EnVision Centers are centralized hubs that serve to support four pillars of self-sufficiency: 1) Economic Empowerment; 2) Educational Advancement; 3) Health and Wellness; and 4) Character and Leadership. The EnVision Centers will partner with “federal agencies, state and local governments, non-profits, faith-based organizations, corporations, public housing authorities, and housing finance agencies” and will leverage these “public-private partnerships” to connect households with services to promote self-sufficiency.

HUD plans to develop tools to track and measure resident outcomes and services to ensure that EnVision Centers are able to monitor progress.

NAHRO’s comments on the EnVision Center Demonstration can be found here.

HUD’s full press release can be found here.

The full list of communities receiving the Envision Center designation can be found by clicking below.

Continue reading

FY 2018 Housing Trust Fund Allocations Announced

On June 5, HUD will allocate more than $266 million in FY 2018 formula funds to eligible grantees of the National Housing Trust Fund (HTF) program. The HTF is a non-appropriated federal resource that complements existing Federal, State and local efforts to preserve and expand the nation’s supply of affordable homes for very low-income (VLI) and extremely low-income (ELI) households, as well as families experiencing homelessness. Authorized in 2008, lawmakers sought to establish a permanent source of affordable housing funding through annual contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs). Eight years later, the HTF was finally capitalized through its inaugural FY 2016 allocations. HTF grantees include the 50 states, District of Columbia, and five U.S. Insular Areas. Grantees may distribute funds through subgrantees (a unit of general local government or State agency) or directly fund projects proposed by eligible recipients (including PHAs), or a combination of both.

 FY 2018 Housing Trust Fund Allocations

State / Territory

FY18 Allocation % Change (FY17 to FY18)

California

$36,616,277

58%

New York

$22,171,681

50%

Texas

$12,279,085

39%

Florida

$10,442,914

36%

Illinois

$9,812,230

37%

Pennsylvania

$7,759,948

32%

New Jersey

$7,726,903

38%

Ohio

$6,971,712

27%

Michigan

$6,004,558

24%

Massachusetts

$5,720,333

24%

North Carolina

$5,874,191

32%

Georgia

$5,705,499

29%

Washington

$5,197,313

26%

Virginia

$4,672,562

22%

Wisconsin

$4,117,505

18%

Indiana

$3,937,462

17%

Missouri

$3,970,270

18%

Arizona

$3,997,777

21%

Tennessee

$3,688,511

17%

Colorado

$3,563,587

13%

Oregon

$3,654,189

16%

Minnesota

$3,445,781

10%

Maryland

$3,578,771

17%

Connecticut

$3,269,474

9%

Louisiana

$3,068,829

2%

South Carolina

$3,007,655

0%

Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, District Of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming

$3,000,000 (Required State Minimum)

Puerto Rico

$1,253,357

42%

American Samoa

$11,995

54%

Guam

$97,028

54%

Northern Marianas

$53,415

54%

Virgin Islands

$104,591

54%

Total $266,775,403

22%

HUD to Withdraw AFFH Local Government Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) Tool

Moments ago, in an email from HUD Exchange, HUD announced that it plans to withdraw the assessment tool for local governments. According to HUD, “the current iteration of the Tools is substantively deficient and unduly burdensome because it resulted in great expense to program participants and HUD, yet it is not adequately guiding participants through the creation of acceptable Assessments of Fair Housing (AFHs).” Local governments must still comply with their obligation to affirmatively further fair housing.

HUD has posted pre-publication copies of three notices:

  1. Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: Withdrawal of the Assessment Tool for Local Governments – This notice withdraws the current local government assessment tool because it is “substantively deficient and unduly burdensome”;
  2. Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: Withdrawal of Notice Extending the Deadline for Submission of Assessment of Fair Housing for Consolidated Plan Participants – This notice withdraws the previous notice (published on Jan. 5, 2018; 83 Federal Register 683) which extended the submission deadline for AFHs; and
  3. Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH): Responsibility to Conduct Analysis of Impediments – This notice notes that local governments still have an obligation to affirmatively further fair housing and must conduct an Analysis of Impediments (AI).

The email notes that applicable program participants should update their AIs in accordance with the HUD Fair Housing Guide.

NAHRO will keep our members informed as we learn additional details.

FY19 House T-HUD Appropriations Bill Released; HUD Programs Receive Level Funding/Slight Increases

On May 15, the House Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Subcommittee released its draft FY 2019 appropriations bill. Overall, the bill received an additional $1.5 billion increase to its allocation compared to FY 2018, an achievement considering several spending bills have been level funded and T-HUD was expected to have a similar fate.  A summary is below; NAHRO will release a more detailed analysis soon.

The FY 2018 omnibus bill marked the first significant increase to HUD funding in nearly a decade; NAHRO and its members should be proud that the House bill preserves many of those funding increases in a highly competitive appropriations season.

Most programs within HUD received level funding or a slight increase, with the unfortunate exception of the HOME Investment Partnerships program. HOME was cut by 12 percent compared to FY 2018.

  • Public Housing Capital Fund: $2.75 billion, level funding – including a new $30 million set-aside for competitive grants for the demolition of the most distressed public housing units
  • Public Housing Operating Fund: $4.55 billion, level funding
  • Choice Neighborhoods:$150 million, level funding
  • Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment Renewals:$20.107 billion, a 2.6 percent increase
  • Mobility Demonstration: $50 million for a new mobility demonstration program
  • Ongoing Administrative Fees: $1.73 billion, level funding
  • Family Self-Sufficiency: $75 million, level funding
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance: $11.747 billion, a 2 percent increase
  • Community Development Block Grant:$3.3 billion, level funding
  • HOME Investment Partnerships:$1.2 billion, a 12 percent decrease
  • Housing Opportunity for Persons with AIDS:$393 million, a 5 percent increase
  • Homeless Assistance Grants:$2.546 billion, a 1 percent increase

As the FY 2019 appropriations process moves forward, NAHRO will focus advocacy efforts on the HOME program to ensure that the cuts proposed by the House are not enacted. NAHRO will also advocate for increased funding and flexibility for HCV Administrative Fee funds as level funding does not take into account the addition of new vouchers and the increased need for resident opportunity resources.

The bill will be brought before the House T-HUD Subcommittee on May 16 for consideration. No amendments are expected. It’s likely that the full House Appropriations Committee will vote on the bill next week. The timeline for a floor vote is unclear, though Congress typically tries to move as many bills through the process as possible before the August recess.

The Senate T-HUD bill is expected to be considered before the Senate T-HUD Subcommittee during the week of June 4.