HUD, IRS Announce Disaster Assistance for Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Earlier this week, HUD announced that the Department will expedite federal disaster assistance to the State of Texas and provide support to homeowners and low-income renters that are left without a home due to Hurricane Harvey.

Currently, President Trump has issued a disaster declaration for 18 counties in Texas: Aransas, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Jackson, Kleberg, Liberty, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria and Wharton. More counties may be added at a later date.

HUD’s disaster assistance will include: Continue reading

HUD Issues New Certification Requirements for Housing Counselors

On December 14, HUD issued a final rule titled “Housing Counseling Certification” that codifies statutory requirements that housing counseling required under or provided in connection with all HUD programs will be provided by HUD-Certified Housing Counselors. In order to become certified, housing counselors must pass a standardized written examination and work for a HUD-approved housing counseling agency (HCA). The goal of these new requirements is to improve the knowledge and effectiveness of housing counselors that serve HUD-assisted renters, prospective homebuyers, or existing homeowners.

The final compliance date for the certification requirement is three years after the date the certification examination becomes available. HUD will publish a separate Federal Register notice to announce the start of the testing and certification process. However, some of the provisions of the final rule will become effective on January 13, 2017, including:

  • Requirement for agencies that provide homeownership counseling,
  • Requirement related to distribution of home inspection materials,
  • Provision for agencies found to have misused housing counseling program grant funds, and
  • Prohibition against distribution of funds to organizations convicted of violating election laws.

Access HUD’s resource page on the final rule here.

It is important to note that this new rule now covers not only participants in HUD’s Housing Counseling Program but also participants in other HUD programs including HOME Investment Partnerships, Community Development Block Grant, Public and Indian Housing, and FHA Single Family. Covered stakeholders will have three years from the date the certification examination becomes available to comply with the housing counselor certification requirement. A resource sheet for other HUD programs covered under this final rule is available here.

Additional coverage of the final rule will be available in the forthcoming edition of the NAHRO Monitor (members only).

HUD Finalizes Rule to Expand Housing Protections for Survivors of Violence

On October 24, HUD announced the impending publication of a final rule that will expand the housing protections for victims of  domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking (hereinafter known as “victim”) regardless of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age. The final rule will fully codify the provisions of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013) into HUD’s regulations.

At its core, VAWA 2013 prohibits housing providers from denying or terminating housing assistance on the basis that an applicant or tenant is a victim. HUD’s final rule expands the universe of HUD rental assistance programs subject to the VAWA 2013 statute beyond Public Housing and Section 8 programs to also include:

  • Housing Trust Fund (HTF) – a program originally not listed under VAWA 2013;
  • HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program;
  • Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program;
  • HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless programs;
  • Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities;
  • Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly;
  • Section 221(d)(3) Below Market Interest Rate (BMIR) Program
  • Section 236 Rental Program

These programs, along with properties assisted through the USDA Rural Housing programs and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, are collectively referred to as “covered housing programs.”

Overall, HUD’s final rule:

  • Codifies the core protections under VAWA 2013 across HUD’s covered programs by ensuring survivors are not denied assistance as an applicant, or evicted or have assistance terminated due to the individual’s victim status, or for being affiliated with a victim.
  • Provides a model emergency transfer plan for housing providers and explains how housing providers must address their tenants’ requests for emergency transfers.
  • Offers protections against the adverse effects of abuse that can often have negative economic and criminal consequences on a survivor. For example, a perpetrator may take out credit cards in a survivor’s name, ruining their credit history. Covered housing providers may  not deny tenancy or occupancy rights based solely on adverse factors that are a direct result of being a survivor.
  • Makes clear that under most circumstances, a survivor need only to self-certify in order to exercise their rights under VAWA, there by “ensuring third party documentation does not cause a barrier in a survivor expressing their rights and receiving the protections needed to keep themselves safe.”

HUD’s final rule is currently pending publication in the Federal Register. Once published, the rule’s regulations will become effective after 30 days.

An in-depth analysis of the final rule can be found in the October 30, 2016 edition of the NAHRO Monitor (members only).

 

HUD Finalizes Rule to Protect Victims of Harassment

HUD has announced that it will publish final rule titled “Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment and Liability for Discriminatory Housing Practices under the Fair Housing Act” on September 14, 2016. This final rule will formalize the standards for use in investigations and adjudications involving allegations of harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability. The rule defines and specifies how HUD will evaluate “hostile environment” and “quid pro quo” harassment claims under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and clarifies the operation of traditional principles of direct and vicarious liability in the FHA context. The final rule will become effective 30 days after it’s publication in the Federal Register.

During the proposed rulemaking stage of this final rule, NAHRO submitted comments to HUD commending the Department’s objective to protect individuals who experience harassment. NAHRO also expressed concerns over some aspects of the proposed rule, particularly the proposed rule’s definition of “direct liability” and the unintended consequences that may arise from that definition. Under the proposed rule, a housing provider and their employees and agencies would be held directly liable when it fails to “fulfill a duty to take prompt action to correct and end a discriminatory housing practice by a third-party.” NAHRO’s comment letter expressed concern over scenarios where the third party is outside the scope of control of the principal.

Along with the final rule, HUD’s Office of General Counsel is issuing Fair Housing Act guidance on local ‘nuisance ordinances’ that may lead to housing discrimination against survivors of domestic violence and other persons in need of emergency services. HUD’s press release on the final rule can be accessed here.

Deeper analysis of the final rule and guidance will be forthcoming for NAHRO members.