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PHADA Pushes for Waiver Extensions, Permanence

David Weber, PHADA Policy Analyst

Since the start of the pandemic, PHADA has taken the lead in advocating for broad regulatory relief for public housing authorities, sending a letter to the HUD Secretary calling for such relief on March 13. Since then, we have worked closely with the dedicated staff at HUD and our members to identify, clarify, and implement the much-needed waivers authorized by the CARES Act and the HUD Secretary.

Many of the operational changes implemented in response to the pandemic have demonstrated alternate but effective means of managing programs, some of which were previously not permissible, or were not clearly permitted. The changing social awareness of increasing income inequality and systemic racism in the context of the social and economic fallout of the pandemic have also highlighted requirements that have little or no positive impact on the program, participants, housing authorities, or costs. The waivers provided by the CARES Act and HUD have been crucial in allowing PHAs to continue fulfilling their mission on the front lines. The extensions, additional waivers, and clarifications included in HUD Notice PIH 2020-33 are appreciated, but they are insufficient. On January 25, 2021, PHADA sent a request to HUD General Deputy Assistant Secretary for PIH Dominique Blom recommending specific waivers that should be made permanent and waivers that should be extended. PHADA’s CARES Act Quick Guide for PHAs provides descriptions and a chart regarding each of the Notice PIH 2020-33 waivers.

PHADA’s request reiterates the need to delay SEMAP scoring and resume by issuing advisory scores only. This is the approach used for PHAS, and it is unclear why this was not also provided for SEMAP.

While PHADA continues to support broad regulatory relief for local public housing authorities, such as that provided to the original MTW agencies, PHADA believes legislative extension of all waivers in Notice 2020-33 would cause confusion and create significant challenges for HUD. For example, how does HUD implement a 3-year extension on waiver PH and HCV-1 regarding changed annual plan submission dates and significant amendment requirements? Or on HCV-1 allowing implementation of changes to administrative plans without Board approval – is the public interest served by extending that wavier for years? Therefore, PHADA’s request relates to specific, already identified, and approved waivers for further extension through at least the end of 2021 under the Secretary’s CARES Act Wavier Authority. The request also identifies numerous waivers that should be made permanent. Some of these require legislative action and PHADA supports measures that would address these items.

 

SEMAP Scoring Must Be Delayed, Advisory

The most pressing item is from Section 11.a. of the Notice, regarding SEMAP scoring. PHADA’s request reiterates the need to delay SEMAP scoring and resume by issuing advisory scores only. This is the approach used for PHAS, and it is unclear why this was not also provided for SEMAP. PHADA is optimistic that new leadership will agree and will extend this and match SEMAP with PHAS timelines.

 

Waivers That Should Be Made Permanent

The specific waivers we recommend be made permanent follows. Statutory items are in bold.

  • PH + HCV 3 and 4: Income verification requirements, allowing self-certification of income.
    PHADA’s position has always been that self-certification is valid, and the HUD rules requiring (as opposed to recommending) a specific hierarchy for income certifications was unnecessary, delayed processing, and added administrative burdens. Other quality control and compliance monitoring measures are more than adequate to capture any misreporting by households where the hierarchy was not or could not be followed.
  • PH + HCV 7: Suspends requirement for print public notice of waiting list openings and closing requirements.
    With apologies to our much-needed local news organizations, the requirement for print publication of these notices is outdated and is a costly and ineffective means of notifying eligible households about waiting lists. It should no longer be required.
  • PH 5: Community service requirements in Public Housing.
    This statutory requirement was added as part of the QHWRA of 1998. It is one of many punitive and ineffective steps taken in the late 1990’s, adds administrative burden and (unfunded) costs, with no positive benefits. PHADA urges HUD to provide information to Congress demonstrating the added costs and ineffectiveness of this provision and urges Congress to repeal Section 12(c) [42 U.S.C. Section 1437j] of the United States Housing Act of 1937, as amended on October 12, 1998 by Section 512 (Pub. L. 105-276) of the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998.
  • PH 13: Over-income termination requirement.
    Requirements regarding residents of public housing who are considered “over-income” were added by the Housing Opportunities Through Modernization Act (HOTMA). HOTMA was signed into law on July 29, 2016 (Public Law 114-201, 130 Stat. 782); section 103 of HOTMA amends section 16(a) of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. 1437n(a)) (1937 Act) and establishes an income limitation for continued occupancy in public housing. This provision was added in response to highly publicized isolated cases, mostly in New York City, of high-income households continuing to live in housing owned and operated by public housing authorities. This provision adds to housing instability, will increase concentration of poverty, and will cost the government more as higher income households leave public housing and their unit is filled by lower-income households. To modernize and remake public housing for this and the next century, allowing PHAs to provide housing where families do not receive subsidy will provide more financial stability for PHAs, more housing stability for households, less poverty concentration, and create more options for public housing authorities to find ways to meet their local housing needs. Continued work and improvement of flat rent options in public housing, for example, would be a more efficient and effective mechanism than the requirements of this provision to address concerns about program abuse.
  • HQS 1-8: Accepting owner certification in lieu of inspection in order to move forward, make payments, etc., for different situations (Initial, interim, annual, replacement unit, etc.) for HCV and for PBV.
    These waivers allow PHAs to make modifications to inspection requirements in order to expedite assistance to households and encourage and incentivize landlord to participate. As HUD continues to work towards one updated inspection standard to be applied across all of HUD’s housing assistance programs, PHADA urges Congress to remove details of inspection requirements from statute and instead authorize HUD to establish and update inspection standards as housing technology and standards evolve.
  • HQS-11: Allows independent inspection to be used, in lieu of HQS inspection, in approving or denying a unit for HCV Homeownership assistance.
    This provision stems from the requirement that an HQS inspection be completed prior to making payments on an assisted unit. As in waivers HQS 1-8, the separate inspection requirement can create unnecessary delays and often duplication of inspection and added administrative and cost burdens. PHAs should have the discretion to accept an inspection that meets the program requirements for unit quality and condition. HUD and Congress are urged to repeal or amend these requirements.
  • HCV 2 re: Oral briefings not required.
    This is a dated requirement, and alternate means of providing HCV program briefings have proven effective for many households during the pandemic. HUD should eliminate this requirement.
  • HCV 4: Extending time from lease start to HAP execution allowed from 60 to 90 days.
    Extending the allowable time period to complete the administrative paperwork required to process payments to landlords is a practical step to ease administrative burdens, reduce negative impacts on landlords, and facilitate provision of assistance to more households.

For the same reasons, PHADA urges extension on the modification made in Section 12. a. of the Notice which extends the PIC 50058 submission timeline from effective date of action to PIC submission from 60 to 90 days.

 

Waiver Extensions

PHADA also urged the extension of the following waivers from Notice PIH 2020-33 through the end of 2021. All of these waivers provide administrative flexibility and efficiency, allowing agencies to take local steps necessary to provide assistance and support to households and landlords during these times.

  • PH and HCV 2-7
  • PH 3, 5 – 9, PH-13 and PH-14
  • HQS 1 – 11.
  • HCV – 1-8, 10-14.
  • Section 12. a. regarding timeline for submission of HUD-50058 forms.

 

Other Waivers

PHADA is not recommending further extension on PH & HCV-1 and PH-1, 4, 10 and 11 as these waivers relate to submission and processing deadlines, public notice and related public process requirements that provide important tenant and public protections that can be met through various means, despite pandemic-related challenges. PHADA believe the existing waivers and extensions are adequate at this time.

HCV-9 requires homeownership counseling prior to approval for HCV homeownership assistance. Because data is clear that completing homeownership counseling improves success rates for program participants, and because alternate means of delivering housing counseling are becoming increasingly common and accessible, the existing waiver is adequate.

PH-2 provides alternate and increased allowable total development costs, and is already provided through the end of 2021, and PHADA believes this is adequate.

PH-12 waives the public housing inspection requirement for 2020 but requires PHAs to inspect each unit before the end of 2021. PHADA believes that the inspection of units is important, and the existing waiver is adequate.

PHADA looks forward to working with HUD and Congress to take these steps, and to do further work to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our country’s housing assistance programs.