HUD Extends Two HCV Payment Standard Waivers for 2023

On Sept. 26, HUD published a notice titled “Extension of Certain Regulatory Waivers for the Housing Choice Voucher (including Mainstream) Program and Streamlined Review Process” (Notice PIH 2022-30). The notice would extend two waivers that were previously made available for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program.

The waivers that would be extended are the following:

  • Increase in Payment Standard During HAP [Housing Assistance Payment] Contract Term – this waiver would allow PHAs to increase the payment standard for a family at any time after the effective date of the increase instead of at the next regular reexamination.
  • Voucher Tenancy: New Payment Standard Amount – this waiver would allow PHAs to establish payment standards up to 120% of the FMR, instead of 110%, which is the maximum usually allowed in most scenarios.

Extending a Waiver

If a PHA already is using one of these waivers, it need only extend the waiver. Agencies that are using these waivers may continue to use them, without taking additional steps, until Dec. 31, 2022 and may extend them until Dec. 31, 2023. To extend the waivers, PHAs must email PIH_Expedited_Waivers@hud.gov, while copying their local field office. The notice provides details on the contents of the email to be sent. Waiver extensions may be requested until Dec. 31, 2022.

Requesting a Waiver

Agencies that wish to apply for one or both of the waivers, if they do not currently implement them, or agencies that have not extended their waiver before the deadline, may request the use of the waiver through a streamlined approval process. Requests for waiver usage under this process must be submitted to HUD before the end of Sept. 30, 2023.

Agencies that request a waiver through this process must provide a good cause justification. The good cause justification must include all of the following:

  • Why the PHA needs the waiver;
  • The impact on PHA operations or applicants if the waiver is not provided; and
  • The proposed waiver duration (this should be limited to the time the PHA needs the waiver, but should not exceed Dec. 31, 2023).

Examples of good cause for each of the waivers can be found below:

  • Increase in Payment Standard During HAP Contract Term;
    • Increases in family rent burdens;
    • Potential negative impacts to tenants or the onset of housing instability;
  • Voucher Tenancy: New Payment Standard Amount;
    • Rental Market Fluctuations – The PHA is in an area that HUD has determined has significant rental market fluctuations (a list of those areas is listed at the end of the notice);
    • Utilization Rate – The PHA has a lower than 98% utilization rate for the current year or more than a 5% utilization drop between 2019 and 2021; The utilization rate for this purpose is the higher of the unit utilization rate or the budget utilization rate; and
    • Timely Leasing of Vouchers – the PHA has leased less than 85% of the vouchers that it has issued in the last six months.

A PHA may request a waiver by emailing PIH_Expedited_Waivers@hud.gov, while copying their local field office. The notice provides details on the contents of the email to be sent.

Other Waivers

As always, a PHA may use the regular waiver request process for any additional waiver it may require, but those requests will not be subject to a streamlined approval process.

The full notice may be found here.

HUD Announces PHAs for MTW Asset Building Cohort

Earlier today, HUD published a press release announcing that it had selected PHAs for the fourth cohort of the Moving to Work (MTW) program. The MTW program allows PHAs that have received MTW status certain additional flexibilities in how they use their funds and greater freedom in how they operate. The program allows PHAs to innovate in how they provide housing.

The current expansion of the MTW program requires PHAs to commit to research on a particular policy topic. In addition to the regulatory and operational flexibility afforded by the program, PHAs selected in this cohort have committed to research asset building policies. Housing agencies in this cohort will have to pick, implement, and track one of the three following options for asset building policies:

  1. 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.
  2. Credit Building Option – PHAs must report public housing rent payments to credit bureaus.
  3. PHA-Designed Asset Building Option – PHAs must design their own local asset building program.

Currently, HUD has selected 87 of the 100 agencies, including 16 in this cohort, to which it is statutorily mandated to award an MTW designation. According to HUD, “MTW agencies are now in 40 states and the District of Columbia.”

HUD’s press release on the MTW fourth cohort can be found here.

The Request for Applications for the MTW fourth cohort (Notice PIH 2022-11) can be found here.

NAHRO congratulates all of the selected PHAs that were selected in this cohort. The complete list can be found below.

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HUD Publishes 2023 FMRs

On Sept. 1, HUD published in the Federal Register a notice announcing the new Fair Market Rents for 2023. Fair Market Rents (FMRs) are used by the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program to determine the payment standard, which is used to calculate the amount of rental assistance a family in the program may receive in a certain area. Certain other programs also use FMRs. In calculating these FMRs, HUD altered their methodology to use additional private-sector data. The Department previously asked for comment on their new methodology and NAHRO responded with comments.

Housing agencies that are interested in reevaluating their area’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 FMRs must submit a reevaluation request to HUD by Oct. 3, 2022. The requestor must also submit data to HUD more recent than the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) data used in calculating the FY 2023 FMRs. The Department requires data on “gross rents paid in the FMR area for occupied standard quality rental housing units” and the data “must be sufficient for HUD to calculate a 40th and 50th percentile two-bedroom gross rent.” Requestors may also gather this data through the use of surveys. This data must be submitted by Jan. 6, 2023.

The FMRs are effective on Oct. 1, 2022.

The FY 2023 FMRs along with other FMR-related information can be found here.

The Federal Register notice can be found here.

HUD’s Press Release on the new FMRs can be found here.

HUD Distributes $200 Million in New General-Purpose Vouchers

On Aug. 26, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD or the Department) published a new notice detailing how new incremental general-purpose vouchers would be distributed and describing certain other operational provisions of the vouchers. The notice is titled “Allocation and Special Administrative Fee for New Incremental Housing Choice Vouchers” [PIH 2022-29 (HA)]. This $200 million in additional funding for vouchers was appropriated by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022. The notices states that there will be 19,700 new Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs) distributed to PHAs.

NAHRO thanks its members for educating decisionmakers in DC on the need and importance of new vouchers. In addition, in implementing the vouchers, NAHRO sent a letter to HUD urging the Department not to add additional terms or conditions to the vouchers, which may have made them harder to use. NAHRO is pleased that HUD has listened to NAHRO’s suggestion.

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NHLP and PRRAC Document on Options to Increase HCV Payment Standards

The National Housing Law Project (NHLP) and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) have written a document titled “New Options to Increase Housing Choice Voucher Payment Standards.” Typically, a PHA can set its payment standard at between 90% to 110% of the Fair Market Rent (FMR). This document provides information on instances where PHAs can set payment standards up to 120% (or use 50th percentile FMRs, which are set higher than normal FMRs).

The document provides the following summarized information on payment standards and FMRs (see the full document for details):

  • PHAs can establish payment standards higher than 110% when implementing a reasonable accommodation for a family that includes a person with a disability. The PHA may establish an exception payment standard up to 120%.
  • By request of a PHA, HUD may approve an exception payment start for a designated part of an FMR area (i.e., an exception area) where the total population of the HUD-approved exception area does not exceed 50% of the population of the area.
  • PHAs may request FMRs be calculated at the 50th percentile rent (normally FMRs are calculated at the 40th percentile rent–i.e., they are set so that about 40% of the available housing stock in a given geography is accessible to renters) to establish a higher success rate for their voucher program. The PHA will be able to set the payment standard at 90% to 110% of the 50th percentile rent.
  • In instances where the PHA previously had a 50th percentile FMR and now has a 40th percentile FMR, HUD may approve a payment standard amount based on the 50th percentile rent, if the PHA scored well on the SEMAP (Section Eight Management Assessment Program) deconcentration bonus indicator.
  • PHAs may be able to set payment standards up to 120% through the use of waivers in the Notice PIH 2022-09.
  • PHAs that voluntarily use Small Area FMRs can set a payment standard up to 120% of the Small Area FMR using Notice PIH 2022-09.
  • PHAs that mandatorily use Small Area FMRs can set a payment standard up to 120% of the Small Area FMR using Notice PIH 2022-09.
  • PHAs with Moving to Work (MTW) status can use their MTW flexibilities to set higher payment standards.

The document provides additional information and citations to the appropriate regulatory provisions and guidance documents.

The full document can be found here.

After NAHRO’s Urging, HUD Expands Administrative Fee Eligible Uses

On June 13th, HUD published a notice [Notice PIH 2022-18 (HA)] expanding the eligible uses of the administrative fee for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. The notice is titled “Use of Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) and Mainstream Voucher Administrative Fees for Other Expenses to Assist Families and Lease Units.” Earlier this year, NAHRO had written to HUD recommending that it expand the eligible uses of the HCV administrative fee in order to increase voucher utilization. NAHRO wrote that HUD should “[i]mmediately issue guidance in the form of a new PIH notice clarifying that administrative fees may be used for activities and expenses that help a PHA utilize vouchers . . . .” NAHRO is pleased that HUD recognized–after NAHRO’s urging–the importance of allowing administrative fees to be used for these additional purposes, which will have the end effect of helping more families find and lease homes.

The notice clarifies that administrative fees may be used for the following activities:

  • Administrative Activities: These activities include–but are not limited to the following:
    • Front-line, day-to-day operational activities:
      • applicant intake;
      • lease-up activities;
      • income determinations and reexaminations;
      • unit inspections;
      • disbursing HAP to landlords;
      • policy and operational planning and implementation;
      • financial management;
      • HCV record-keeping and reporting;
    • Indirect overhead activities associated with operating the HCV program:
      • PHA management;
      • human resources;
      • legal;
      • finance;
      • accounting and payroll;
      • information technology;
      • procurement;
      • quality control;
      • central office cost center HCV program expenses;
    • Housing search assistance activities;
      • pre-move counseling;
      • helping a family identify and visit potentially available units during their housing search;
      • helping a family find a unit that meets the household’s disability-related needs;
      • providing transportation and directions; and
      • assisting with the completion of rental applications;
    • Post-lease up activities related to search assistance:
      • post-move counseling and landlord/tenant mediation;
    • HCV owner recruitment and outreach activities:
      • costs associated with materials or webpages specifically geared to owners;
      • costs of landlord liaison staff;
      • associated expenses;
  • Other Eligible Activities (PHAs must change their administrative plans to support these activities; Note: some of these activities have certain restrictions, please see Notice PIH 2022-18 (HA) for specifics on use):
    • Expenses for activities designed to help assist HCV families in leasing units:
      • Owner incentive and/or retention payments;
      • security deposit assistance;
      • utility deposit assistance/utility arrears;
      • application fees/non-refundable administrative or processing fees/refundable application deposit assistance/broker fees;
      • holding fees; and
      • renter’s insurance if required by the lease.

Additionally, administrative fee reserves or outside funding sources may also be used for the listed activities. Similarly, mainstream voucher administrative fees may also be used to assist mainstream voucher families to lease units, though mainstream administrative fees may only be used for mainstream vouchers. The notice also notes that for both regular and mainstream HAP funding may not be used to pay for any of these activities. Finally, the notice provides certain information on reporting the new authorized expenses.

The full notice may be found here.

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 Extends Streamlined Waiver Requests for Certain HCV Waivers

On April 11th, HUD published a notice extending the time in which certain Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) waivers could be applied for in an expedited manner. The notice is titled “Streamlined Regulatory Waivers for the Housing Choice Voucher (including Mainstream and Mod Rehab) Program” (PIH 2022-09).

The notice extends the deadline–until September 30, 2022–to apply for three specific waivers that apply to the Housing Choice Voucher program. These waivers were previously available through prior notices, but the deadline to apply through the expedited process had ended.

The three waivers that are still available for the HCV program are the following:

  • Increase in Payment Standard During HAP Contract Term – this waiver would allow the PHA to increase the payment standard for a family at any time after the effective date of the increase, rather than waiting for the next regular reexamination.
  • Term of Voucher: Extensions of Term – this waiver would allow PHAs to grant extensions of the initial voucher term, irrespective of what is written in the PHA’s administrative plan.
  • Voucher Tenancy: New Payment Standard Amount – this waiver would allow PHAs to establish payment standards from 111 to 120 percent of the Fair Market Rent (FMR).

In requesting a waiver, the PHA must articulate a good cause justification. The good cause justification must include three elements: 1) why the PHA needs the waiver; 2) the impact on PHA operations or applicants if the waiver is not provided; and 3) the proposed waiver duration. The waiver may not extend past Dec. 31, 2022. The notice provides examples of good cause.

To request a waiver, PHAs should email PIH_Expedited_Waivers@hud.gov. The notice provides instructions on the information required and the proper formatting of the email request.

The full notice can be found here.

When Does a PHA Not Receive a SEMAP Score? Find Out Here!

The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted many PHAs’ voucher operations. In recognition of this, HUD has afforded PHAs that meet certain criteria the opportunity to waive their Section 8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) scores in recognition of the pandemic environment. There are also certain other instances when PHAs may not receive a SEMAP score. This blog post illustrates three instances where a PHA may not receive a SEMAP score.

Instances Where a Prior SEMAP Score Is Carried Forward

PHAs with a fiscal year end (FYE) on Dec. 31, 2021 will have their most recent SEMAP score on record carried forward. See pages 39 and 40 of Notice PIH 2021-14 (HA). (Note: For these PHAs, they will not qualify for the expedited waiver described below for their FYE on Dec. 31, 2022.)

PHAs that Receive an Expedited SEMAP Waiver

PHAs with a FYE of 3/31/22, 6/30/22 or 9/30/22 may request to waive the application of SEMAP in its entirety, but only if the PHA has SEMAP indicators that were–directly or indirectly–affected because of a disruption to PHA operations caused by the PHA’s adoption of CARES Act waivers. See page 4 of Notice PIH 2021-34. Additional information on applying for the SEMAP waiver or other expedited waivers can be found in Notice PIH 2021-34. The deadline to apply for expedited waivers has been extended to April 1, 2022. After April 1, PHAs may still apply for a regulatory waiver, but the expedited waiver process will no longer be available. See Notice PIH 2022-04.

Certain Small PHAs (Fewer than 250 Assisted Units)

HUD’s regulations state that HUD will assess and score SEMAP for PHAs with fewer than 250 assisted units every other PHA fiscal year unless the PHA elects to have itself scored annually or the PHA is troubled. 24 CFR 982.105(a)(2). Clarifying HUD guidance states that non-troubled PHAs with fewer than than 250 assisted units and FYEs of 3/31/2022 or 6/30/2022 do not have to have submit a SEMAP certification. See chart and accompanying text on page 3 of the IMS-PIC SEMAP Sub Module PHA Certification and PHA Appeal Submission Instructions, March 2019.

PHAs that fall into one of these categories may not receive an SEMAP score from HUD.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms or Detectors Required in HUD Housing

On Jan. 31, HUD published a notice titled “Carbon Monoxide Alarms or Detectors in U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-Assisted Housing.” The notice discusses the risks of carbon monoxide (CO), provides resources for detecting CO and preventing exposure, and requires that CO alarms or detectors be installed in certain HUD-assisted housing. The notice states that housing in the following programs should comply with the International Fire Code (IFC) 2018 standards on the installation of CO alarms or detectors by Dec. 27, 2022:

  • Public Housing (PH);
  • Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program;
  • Project-based Voucher (PBV) program;
  • Project-based Rental Assistance (PBRA);
  • Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly (Section 202);
  • Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities (Section 811).

Carbon monoxide is a “an odorless, colorless, and toxic gas.” It can be caused by the “fuel burned in vehicles, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces.” It can poison people and animals when it builds up indoors. While the effects of CO exposure can vary, it can cause adverse health impacts such as “permanent brain damage, life-threatening cardiac complications, fetal death or miscarriage, and death in a matter of minutes.”

The International Code Council (ICC) publishes the International Fire Code (IFC). HUD encourages PHAs and owners to adopt standards at or above the standards of the 2018 International Fire Code. These requirements will be enforced by HUD after Dec. 27, 2022. HUD encourages PHAs and owners to adopt the standards as soon as possible.

PHAs with PH may use either Operating Funds or Capital funds for CO alarms or detectors. There are also Capital Fund competitions for additional funds. For the HCV and PBV programs, the owner is responsible for the CO alarms or detectors, but PHAs may use their administrative fees for landlord  outreach and education on CO requirements. Owners of PBRA, Section 202, and Section 811 properties may use the property’s reserve for replacement account, residual receipts, general operating reserves, owner contributions, or secondary financing to fund CO alarms and detectors.

The notice helps PHAs and owners prevent the intrusion of CO. The notice provides examples of activities the prevent CO intrusion. It also provides a list of sources of CO that can be found in a housing environment. Finally, it gives examples of activities residents should avoid to prevent unintentional CO poisoning. HUD intends to provide additional guidance to be used to educate tenants.

Finally, the notice provides a list of additional resources including resources from other relevant federal agencies.

The full notice can be found here.