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Federal Housing News

September 29, 2014

NATIONAL HOUSING TRUST FUND

Jersey City Mayor Endorses United for Homes Campaign

The Honorable Steven M. Fulop, the Mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey, is the fifth mayor to endorse the United for Homes campaign. The Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (HCDNNJ), an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, helped secure his endorsement of the proposal to fund the National Housing Trust Fund with revenue raised from modifications to the mortgage interest deduction. 

There are now 25 state and local elected officials and seven local governments endorsing the campaign, while the total number of state and local organizations endorsing the campaign has reached 1,670.

Download the United for Homes elected official endorsement form at http://bit.ly/1aP256s 
View the model resolution at http://nlihc.org/issues/mid/resolution 
Join the United for Homes campaign at www.unitedforhomes.org/support



CONGRESS

Universal Home Design Bill Introduced in Senate

On September 18, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced S. 2889, which would require residential developers receiving any form of federal assistance for new construction to include a minimum level of universal home design features in their properties. The bill would apply to all new construction projects for which the builder, seller, or buyer benefit from federal funding, tax credits, or insurance. The obligation would apply to all units available for initial occupancy after the 30-month period following the enactment of the bill as law.

Universal home design includes features that make a home accessible, navigable, and habitable for disabled individuals who cannot climb stairs and may rely on a mobility device such as a wheelchair. Senator Harkin’s bill would require all affected residences to have:

  • an accessible entrance to the ground floor of the property,
  • a bathroom with walls strong enough to permit installation of grab bars,
  • a kitchen with easily accessible food preparation, washing, and storage areas,
  • an additional room with at least 70 square feet of habitable space and no dimension measuring less than seven feet,
  • sufficiently wide doorways to permit passage between these areas, and
  • climate and lighting controls located at an accessible wall height.

The text of S. 2889 was not available in time for Memo. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.



HUD

HUD Issues Proposed AFFH Assessment Tool

On September 26, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) published the proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Assessment Tool. Comments are due by November 24. After receiving comments, HUD will consider them and solicit a second round of comments for an additional 30 days.

On July 19, 2013, HUD published the long-awaited proposed rule intended to improve jurisdictions’ and public housing agencies’ obligation to affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH). The proposed rule indicated that HUD would issue an Assessment Tool to be used by program participants to evaluate fair housing choice, identify barriers to fair housing choice, and set and prioritize fair housing goals to overcome those barriers. Issuing the Assessment Tool is one more necessary step before a final AFFH rule can be published.

The preamble appears to address three of the concerns expressed by NLIHC and other advocates in comments to the proposed AFFH rule. One concern was that the proposed rule did not seem to sufficiently present a balanced approach to AFFH. A balanced approach would be one that promotes greater mobility and that also recognizes that AFFH may entail devoting resources to improve areas of concentrated racial and ethnic poverty by preserving and improving affordable housing and by implementing investment policies that increase access to essential community assets for protected class residents who wish to remain in their communities. Two places in the preamble appear to address the balance concern, although without specifics:

“Addressing segregation and R/ECAPs requires a balanced approach that not only increases housing opportunities in integrated areas but also promotes integration by broadening housing opportunities in segregated areas and encouraging resident mobility.”

“Addressing disparity in access and exposure to adverse conditions requires a balanced approach that not only provides for strategic investment in areas that lack key assets or are exposed to adverse community factors, but also opens up housing opportunities in asset rich areas and provides for resident mobility.”

A second concern pertained to the need for benchmarks for each fair housing goal in an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH). Benchmarks should specify actions and the timetable that a program participant plans to take for each action. The preamble and proposed Assessment Tool call for metrics, milestones, and timelines.

The third issue that concerns NLIHC and others was that the proposed AFFH rule seemed to allow program participants to merely have one goal for addressing fair housing. The preamble and proposed Assessment Tool appears to require at least one goal for each of a number of fair housing issues.

The preamble begins by discussing the sources of data that will be required to inform the AFH. HUD will provide nationally uniform data. Links to sample sets of HUD-provided data tables and maps are included in the Federal Register notice. Information will be provided for both the entitlement jurisdiction as well as its entire region. HUD stresses that program participants will be required to use existing and reasonably available local data and local knowledge to inform their assessments. Local knowledge is to be gained by the required community participation process.

If HUD finds that an AFH analysis is materially inconsistent with data readily available, or if the priorities or goals are materially inconsistent with available local data or knowledge, HUD may find the AFH to be substantially incomplete and unacceptable. According to the proposed regulations, without an accepted AFH, a Consolidated Plan cannot be approved and a program participant could not receive Community Development Block Grant, HOME, or some other HUD funds.

The preamble next describes the three main sections of the Assessment Tool: a description of the community participation process, a comprehensive analysis, and a presentation of fair housing goals and priorities. For the community participation section, program participants will be asked to describe outreach activities they undertook to encourage community participation in the development and review of the AFH. A summary of all comments received must be provided, along with a summary of comments not accepted and the reasons why. The draft Assessment Tool specifically directs program participants to describe efforts made to reach people who have limited English proficiency and people who have disabilities.

The analysis section has seven required elements, calling for local and regional descriptions and analyses of demographics and various “fair housing issues” that include segregation/ integration and racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty (R/ECAPs), disproportionate housing needs, disparities in access to community assets and exposure to adverse community factors, disability access, and fair housing compliance and infrastructure. For each of the fair housing issue elements, the Assessment Tool asks for an analysis of the “determinants,” HUD’s term for the factors that create, contribute to, or perpetuate a fair housing issue. For each of the fair housing issues, there is a list of possible determinants that program participants are to rank as highly significant, moderately significant, or not significant, and then explain the basis for the significance level.

For the demographic summary element, the Assessment Tool asks program participants to identify current demographic patterns as well as trends over the past ten years.

The segregation, integration, and R/ECAP element asks program participants to identify neighborhoods that have high levels of segregation, including racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty. Unique issues faced by immigrant populations must be assessed by analyzing needs according to national origin and limited English proficiency. This element also asks for an examination of issues related to the location and demographic makeup of residents of publicly supported housing on a project-by-project basis. Program participants must also describe Housing Choice Voucher portability policies and any mobility counseling provided. As more clearly stated in the preamble, program participants are asked to assess their policies, procedures, and practices that might affect segregation and R/ECAPs. An assessment must also be made of other factors such as private investments, market forces, or negative community attitudes such as NIMBYism.

The disproportionate housing needs element of the proposed Assessment Tool asks a series of questions about households experiencing one or more housing burdens by race/ethnicity and family size. The housing burdens include: paying more than 30% of income for housing (“cost burden”) and paying more than 50% of income for housing (“severe cost burden”), living in overcrowded conditions (more than one person per room), and substandard housing conditions (incomplete plumbing or kitchen facilities).

The next element of the Assessment Tool concerns disparities in access to community assets, and exposure to adverse community factors. For different races, ethnicities, national origins, or family status, it asks for analyses of access to public transportation, quality schools, and jobs, as well as an analyses of exposure to poverty and environmental hazards.

The disability access element of the Assessment Tool asks for a description of the geographic distribution or concentration of people with disabilities, especially by age range. Program participants are asked if there is a sufficient number of affordable and accessible units in a range of sizes for people with various types of disabilities. For publicly assisted housing, there must be a discussion of admissions preferences and waitlist procedures. Three questions probe issues relating to Olmstead compliance, the obligation to ensure that people with disabilities live in apartments, family homes, or other non-institutional settings. Finally, this element asks about the extent that people with disabilities are able to access public buildings, transportation, and other facilities and services.

The fair housing compliance and infrastructure element of the Assessment Tool calls for a listing and summary of any unresolved administrative or judicial proceedings related to fair housing or other civil rights issues. Program participants are also asked to identify fair housing or civil rights agencies or organizations, describe their capacity, and discuss any steps taken to provide resources to them.

The final section of the Assessment Tool, the fair housing goals and priorities section, has a summary table listing each of the fair housing issues. For each fair housing issue, program participants must identify any fair housing determinants considered significant, and the level of significance (highly, moderately, or not significant). One or more goals must be described for each significant determinant, along with a discussion of how the goal relates to overcoming the determinant and related fair housing issue. A level of priority for each goal must be indicated (highest, moderate, lowest). The program participant must identify metrics, milestones, and timeframes, so that the public can evaluate performance. Finally, a reason must be provided for any highly or moderately significant determinant not being addressed by a goal.

A more detailed NLIHC preliminary summary of the proposed AFFH Assessment Tool is at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Summary-Proposed_AFFH_Template.pdf.

The AFFH Assessment Tool Federal Register notice is at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-09-26/pdf/2014-22956.pdf

An easier to read version of the preamble is at http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2014-22956_PI.pdf
 
Toward the end of the preamble there is a link to HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research site which has the proposed AFFH rule, as well as:

NLIHC’s Summary of the Proposed AFFH regulations and NLIHC’s formal comments regarding them are at http://nlihc.org/issues/affh

More information about AFFH is on page 204 of NLIHC’s 2014 Advocates’ Guide at
http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/2014AG-204.pdf



Multifamily Memo Clarifies Affirmative Fair Marketing Plan Requirements

HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs posted a memorandum clarifying earlier guidance regarding Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing Plan (AFHMP) requirements. The September 22 memorandum supersedes a May 15 memorandum.

HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) is required to review initial and updated AFHMPs. An April 14, 2014 memorandum from FHEO, attached to the September 22 Multifamily memorandum, explains that the statutory authority for AFHMPs derives from the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

An initial AFHMP is required for new projects and projects newly receiving Multifamily assistance, such as public housing developments converting to Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance through the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD). The April 14, 2014 FHEO memorandum explains that all applicants for participation in Federal Housing Administration (FHA) subsidized and unsubsidized multifamily housing programs with five or more units must complete an AFHMP and lists examples of situations requiring an initial AFHMP.

A Multifamily property owner must review an existing AFHMP when:

  • at least five years have elapsed since the last review, or
  • the local jurisdiction’s Consolidated Plan has been updated, or
  • significant demographic changes have occurred in the housing market.

An owner must update an AFHMP when they determine that an existing plan warrants modification.

An updated AFHMP should only be submitted to FHEO for review and approval if:

  • The owner determines that the population least likely to apply for housing is not identified in the existing AFHMP, or 
  • Existing advertising, publicity, or outreach are no longer appropriate and require modification or expansion.

If an owner’s review concludes that an existing AFHMP is satisfactory, it does not have to be submitted to FHEO. However, a copy should be maintained and be available to the public.
 
An owner must also submit an updated AFHMP for FHEO approval if the owner wants to adopt a residency preference, or if the owner wants to change a residency preference to include a geographic area not previously approved by FHEO.

The memorandum is at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=Clarification_AFHMPs.pdf



PIH Notice Provides Guidance on PHA Transfers and Consolidations

HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) issued Notice PIH 2014-24 on September 23 providing guidance regarding voluntary transfers of public housing programs, developments, and units between two or more public housing agencies (PHAs), or consolidation of two or more public housing programs. Notice PIH 2014-24 does not apply to the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, which is covered under Notice PIH 2012-11.

A transfer is an organizational change in which a “divesting” PHA turns over ownership and operation of public housing units and/or developments to one or more “receiving” PHAs. A consolidation is an organizational change in which two or more divesting PHAs turn over ownership and operation of their public housing programs to create a new “consolidated” PHA.

The Notice details the submission process PHAs must follow for transfers and consolidations, six of which are of note for residents and advocates.

Receiving PHAs will likely have to submit a Significant Amendment to the Annual PHA Plan for HUD review. A consolidated PHA is a new entity that will be required to submit a 5-Year PHA Plan. A receiving or consolidated PHA that has 550 or more units of public housing and vouchers combined (a “non-qualified PHA”) must complete the PHA Plan Significant Amendment resident and public participation process that includes Resident Advisory Board consultation, public outreach and notice and comment, and at least one public hearing.

Regarding Annual and 5-Year PHA Plans, the Notice expects the receiving or consolidated PHA to assess the fair housing implications of a transfer or consolidation, as well as the impact on current and future residents. The receiving or consolidated PHA should be attentive to admissions and occupancy requirements and processes that might differ from those of the divesting PHA(s), including the effect of the use of local preferences, the effect of site-based waiting lists on minority populations, the location of PHA application intake offices and the need to revise the Admissions and Continued Occupancy Plan (ACOP).

Residents of divesting PHAs must be notified in writing of a requested transfer or consolidation no later than 30 days before the proposed effective date of the transfer or consolidation. The notification must provide a point of contact, mailing address, email address, and telephone number for the receiving or consolidated PHA. No later than 15 days before the effective date, the receiving or consolidated PHA must inform residents of where to pay rent and who to call for building maintenance or if there is an emergency.

Residents of divesting PHAs must be allowed by the receiving or consolidated PHA to remain in their current homes for a period of three months or until their first annual reexamination, whichever is later. NLIHC is seeking clarity about this provision from PIH.

Receiving or consolidated PHAs must recognize the resident councils of any transferred developments of the divesting PHA. However, if a divesting PHA has a jurisdiction-wide resident council, the receiving or consolidated PHA should assist in establishing or expanding its own jurisdiction-wide resident council to include the transferred developments.

PHAs must ensure that public housing residents and applicants understand the implications of a transfer or consolidation. For example, will there be changes to grievance procedures or rent payment practices? All communications must be in a manner that is effective for people with hearing, visual, and other communication- related disabilities consistent with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In addition, PHAs must take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to programs for people with limited English proficiency (LEP), which might entail providing language assistance services to ensure meaningful resident and community involvement for persons with LEP.

Notice PIH 2014-24 is at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=pih2014-24.pdf



Multifamily Memo Provides Guidance on Combining Section 8 HAP Contracts

HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs posted a memorandum on September 18 providing guidance on combining Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contracts. When an owner and HUD agree that HAP contracts may be combined, the assisted units and budget authority will be rolled into a surviving contract that will be renewed for a 20-year term. The memorandum suggests that combining contracts has the potential benefit of lowering administration costs, reducing the number of Management and Occupancy Reviews, and sharing reserves in order to better capitalize a property.

The memorandum details 15 conditions necessary in order to combine contracts. For example, if HAP contracts have differing income eligibility requirements or use agreements, HUD will not approve combining them unless the owner agrees to abide by the most restrictive contract and use agreement provisions.

If two contracts have differing income eligibility requirements, the existing waiting lists for each project will remain in place and tenants on those waiting lists will continue to be selected according to the existing priorities until the existing waiting lists have been exhausted. On the effective date of the new combined contract, any new applicants must meet the more restrictive income limits and be placed on a new waiting list. Applicants from the new list will not be selected for admission until the previous waiting lists have been exhausted.

Another provision requires an owner to agree to the terms of the “Preservation Exhibit,” which provides for the automatic renewal of the contract at the end of the 20-year renewal term for the number of years remaining on the latest expiring contract at the time of its termination.  As an example, the memorandum states that if Project X’s contract will expire in December 2018 and Project Y’s contract will expire in November 2020, in order to combine the contracts, the owner must agree to extend the newly renewed combined contract by the remaining term of Project Y’s contract.

The most recent Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) inspection score must be 60 or greater, or there must be a HUD-approved plan in place to correct deficiencies. A new REAC inspection is required if the most recent REAC score is more than three years old. The memorandum also presents requirements pertaining to Management and Occupancy Reviews (MOR) that have various ratings. For example, if the property is rated troubled and the MOR is more than 12 months old, at least a limited MOR must be completed and the property must score “Satisfactory” or above prior to approval.

The memorandum is at
http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=Sec8_Housing_Assis_Pay_Cnt.pdf

 


HAC NEWS

SEPT. 15-OCT. 15 IS NATIONAL HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH. President Obama’s proclamation includes a call for comprehensive immigration reform.


CONGRESS TO PASS CONTINUING RESOLUTION FOR EARLY FY15.
The House is expected to pass a CR on September 17 and the Senate soon after that. It will fund the federal government at FY14 levels until December 11. In a post-November-elections session Congress will have to complete work on FY 2015 appropriations or pass another CR.


VILSACK RESPONDS TO CONGRESSIONAL LETTER ABOUT 502 SPENDING.
Responding to concerns about USDA’s ability to use all available Section 502 direct funds before FY14 ends September 30 (see HAC News, 8/6/14), USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote to House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee leaders explaining steps being taken this year (see HAC News, 7/23/14) and planned for next year.


SENATE COMMITTEE ADVANCES MENSAH NOMINATION.
The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing September 10 on the selection of Lisa Mensah as USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development (see HAC News, 5/14/14). A confirmation vote by the full Senate has not yet been scheduled.


RURAL POVERTY DECREASES, YET REMAINS HIGHER THAN U.S. POVERTY.
The number of rural Americans living in poverty decreased last year, according to a new Census Bureau report. Overall, the official U.S. poverty rate was 14.5% in 2013, a decline from 15% in 2012. Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013 says there was no statistically significant change in either the number of people living in poverty or real median household income. State and local data will be released September 18. A HAC Rural Research Note provides more details.


HUD OFFERS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FUNDS FOR APPALACHIA AND THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA.
Both programs aim to increase access to capital for business lending and economic development, and applications are due November 3. For Appalachia, the only eligible applicants are state community and economic development agencies. For Delta funds, nonprofits and tribal governments are eligible. Contact Thann Young or Monica Wallace, HUD, 877-787-2526.


USDA POSTS AMENDED MAPS SHOWING FUTURE AREA ELIGIBILITY.
Maps now available on RD’s website (under the Future Eligible Areas heading) eliminate “rural in character” changes (see HAC News, 9/3/14). A disclaimer indicates slight alterations may be made before the maps take effect on October 1.


REGULATORS SEEK COMMENTS ON PROPOSED REVISIONS TO CRA QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
The Interagency Questions and Answers Regarding Community Reinvestment, revised periodically, supplement the Community Reinvestment Act regulations issued by the Federal Reserve board, the FDIC, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Comments are due November 10. Contact Bobbie Kennedy, OCC, 202-649-5470.


HUD REVISES MODEL STANDARDS FOR MANUFACTURED HOME GROUND ANCHORING.
A final rule amends the Manufactured Home Model Installation Standards, establishing a uniform test method to determine and rate ground anchor performance in different soil classifications. Contact Pamela Beck Danner, HUD, 202-708-6423.


GAO REPORT SAYS HUD CAN DO MORE ON
MANUFACTURED HOUSING. Manufactured Housing: Efforts Needed to Enhance Program Effectiveness and Ensure Funding Stability (GAO-14-410) recommendations related to the HUD Code updates, FHA insurance, and fees. Contact Matthew Scirè, GAO, 202-512-8678.


BROAD ACCESS TO MORTGAGE FINANCING RECOMMENDED TO HELP REDUCE INCOME INEQUALITY.
Continued government provision of affordable housing and financing is among the recommendations of Responding to Rising Inequality: Policy Interventions to Ensure Opportunity for All, a brief published by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California at Berkeley.


FARMWORKER HOUSING AND HEALTH CONFERENCE SET FOR NOVEMBER.
“Farmworker Housing Quality and Health: A Transdisciplinary Conference” will be held November 11 in Arlington, VA. Registration is $50 until October 1.

WEBINAR TO COVER PROTECTING SENIORS AND OTHER RD TENANTS FROM DISPLACEMENT. The National Housing Law Project will offer a free webinar on October 21 at 2:00 pm Eastern time/11:00 am Pacific on “Prepayments, Maturing Mortgages, and Foreclosures: Protecting Seniors and Others from Rural Development Rental Housing Displacement.”

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