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.

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.

Sec. Fudge Announces New Effort to Address Reentry Housing Needs

Secretary Fudge issued new guidance yesterday clarifying that citizens returning from jail and/or prison and at risk of homelessness are eligible for Emergency Housing Vouchers.

In a letter sent out to PHAs, Continuums of Care, and HUD grantees, Sec. Fudge wrote that “HUD strongly encourages PHAs to work with their Continuum of Care (CoC) partners to ensure that individuals who are at-risk of homelessness after leaving prisons or jails are considered for these vouchers.”

HUD has eliminated permissive prohibitions for drug-related criminal activity for EHVs, since drug addiction can be a root cause of homelessness. Following a Housing First approach, it now recommends considering drug-related prohibitions to be separate from prohibitions on criminal activity against a person. HUD also no longer requires a “one strike” rule for residents for criminal activity, and instead defers to discretion of landlords and PHAs. More detail on criminal records and eligibility for EHVs can be found here.

Beyond EHVs, more guidance on criminal records in accordance with the Fair Housing Act can be found here. PHAs and federally-assisted housing cannot use arrest records as the basis to deny admission, terminate assistance, or evict residents.

HUD plans to issue future guidance and tools for PHAs and private landlords on tenant screening and best practices on reentry housing. Later this month it will also issue guidance on using Community Development Block Grants on community violence intervention (CVI).

NAHRO and Industry Partners Release Joint Statement Supporting Universal Housing Vouchers

On June 17, 2021, NAHRO along with its industry partners—CLPHA, PHADA, and the MTW Collaborative—jointly issued a statement on universal housing vouchers. Only one in five low-income households that are eligible to receive housing assistance can be served by existing programs due to limited funding. The statement discusses the need for additional rental assistance to address housing instability and prevent homelessness. The statement also discusses the strengths of the voucher program in providing scalable assistance that is proven and effective.

The full statement is can be view here.

Vera Creates “Looking Beyond Conviction History” Fact Sheet

The Vera Institute of Justice has created a fact sheet titled “Looking Beyond Conviction History.” The fact sheet was created by Vera collaborating with multiple PHAs across the country. It provides eight recommendations for PHAs that want to rethink their admission policies for people with criminal conviction histories. While the full fact sheet offers additional details and rationales, the recommendations are the following:

  • Shorten the lookback period to three years or less;
  • Screen for a limited number of convictions and not for arrests;
  • Conduct an individualized assessment of applicants’ conviction histories;
  • Discontinue the use of “one-strike” policies and adopt a case-by-case decision-making approach;
  • Allow people on probation or parole to live in public housing;
  • Limit the use of past evictions to determine successful tenancy in public housing;
  • Specify and limit denials connected to illegal drug use; and
  • Include absence as a result of incarceration as a permitted temporary absence and allow people to stay housed while completing diversion or alternative-to-incarceration programs.

The website hosting the fact sheet can be found here.

The full fact sheet can be found here.

PRRAC Publishes Document on Implementing RAD Choice Mobility

In August, the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) published a document titled “Guidance for Successful Implementation of Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Choice-Mobility.” The document provides suggestions for a PHA to best implement its choice mobility requirement. The choice mobility requirement states that tenants who live in a RAD unit have the option of using a tenant-based voucher after either a year (in project-based voucher units) or two-years (in project-based rental assistance units).

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Homeland Security’s Public Charge Rule Implementation Stopped!

On July 29, 2020, Judge George B. Daniels of the U.S District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction and temporary stay of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Public Charge rule. Judge Daniels’ order provides that DHS and U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) can not enforce, apply, implement, or treat as effective the Public Charge rule as long as “there is a declared national health emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.”

The preliminary injunction and temporary stay applies nationwide as Judge Daniels wrote, “Each infected individual that travels to Governmental Plaintiffs’ jurisdiction [States of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont; and City of New York] risks undoing crucial progress made in combating this disease. Discouraging noncitizens nationwide from obtaining necessary treatment and care certainly undermines those efforts. Issuing geographically limited relief would not meaningfully abate the public health risk, especially when applied to a population that represents a significant portion of essential workers who continue to work outside of their homes ans interact with the public at large.”

The Public Charge rule, that defined public charge to include individuals receiving federal housing benefits, took effect February 24, 2020; after previous injunctions and stays were lifted by the U.S. Supreme Court. It is anticipated that Judge Daniels’ preliminary injunction and temporary stay order will also be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The July 29, 2020 order can be view here. NAHRO’s Public Charge One-Pager provides additional information on the DHS Public Charge rule. NAHRO will continue to follow the implementation of DHS’s Public Charge rule and share additional information as we receive it.

Webinar for the HCV Mobility Demonstration

The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials with our friends, CLPHA, is sponsoring a free webinar on HUD’s new mobility demonstration put on by Mobility Works, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Opportunity Insights.

On July 15, HUD released a notice implementing the $50 million Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration. This important demonstration will enable selected public housing agencies to implement or expand programs that help families to use housing vouchers to locate in “high-opportunity” neighborhoods, which research shows can significantly improve adult and child well-being on several key measures, including children’s chances of attending college.

Housing agencies participating in the program will receive new housing vouchers as well as funding to provide robust mobility services to families with children. Agencies will also participate in a rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of their mobility programs.

Please join us for this free webinar on August 11, 2020 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm ET to discuss the details of HUD’s demonstration notice, as well as the lessons that experienced practitioners and researchers have learned about developing effective housing mobility programs.

AGENDA

Moderator, Demetria McCain, Inclusive Communities Project

I. The requirements of the HUD NOFA:
● Doug Rice, Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
● Megan Haberle, Deputy Director, Poverty & Race Research and Action Council

II. Developing a regional housing mobility plan:
● Andrea Juracek, Executive Director, Housing Choice Partners
● Jeffery Patterson, CEO of the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority

III. Reflections on working with researchers on a mobility evaluation:
● Sarah Oppenheimer, Opportunity Insights
● Andrew Lofton, Seattle Housing Authority

Registration for the free webinar can be found here.

Final AFFH Rule Released

Late last week, HUD published on its website a final rule titled “Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice.” This rule implements the Fair Housing Act’s duty to affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH). Although the rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register, it will go into effect 30 days after its official publication.

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Mobility Demonstration Notice to be Published Tomorrow

Tomorrow, a notice titled “Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers: Implementation of the Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration” will be published in the Federal Register. This notice implements $53 million worth of funding ($10 million for new vouchers, $40 million for services, and $3 million for research) to implement a mobility demonstration program. The purpose of the demonstration is to evaluate the effectiveness of mobility-related strategies in encouraging families to move to lower-poverty areas.

The notice states guidelines by which the demonstration will be governed. New vouchers–and the mobility-related services that will accompany those vouchers–must be provided to families with children. Services include pre-move services, housing search assistance, family financial assistance, landlord recruitment, and post-move services. Public Housing Agencies that are eligible to participate in the demonstration include PHA partnerships, consortia with high-performing Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) programs, consortia with small PHA(s), and certain single agencies. There are certain other eligibility requirements. The Department must submit a report to Congress within five years of implementation.

Applications will be due on October 13, 2020 before midnight ET.

Staff at NAHRO are still in the process of reading through the notice and NAHRO members can expect additional updates.

A pre-publication copy of the notice can be found here.

The Department’s Mobility Demonstration page can be found here.