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President’s Forum: HUD Acknowledges Continuing “Emergency”

Its Assessment Systems Should Reflect This Reality

PHADA President David A. Northern, Sr.

As the end of 2021 approaches, we are getting closer to a “return to normal” but we are not there yet. Indeed, HUD reminded us that we are still in a national “emergency” with its recent issuance of a rule that affords residents more time to pay their back rent before owners and HAs can pursue eviction proceedings.

Like many residents around the country, HAs are still feeling the impact of the emergency and therefore require continued latitude from HUD. Many of us have seen our tenant accounts receivable skyrocket because some residents are unable (or unwilling) to pay rent, for example. At the same time, the pandemic has affected our ability to inspect units, caused many occupancy-related problems, and drained our reserves, in some cases. Now, supply chain delays are impacting our ability to turnover units and, in some cases, obligate and expend capital funds in compliance with HUD’s normal required timeframes. I could cite other examples, but I think you get the point. As HUD itself admits, we are still operating under an emergency, and it is unclear when we will return to “normal.”

The fact that we are still in an emergency is the premise of PHADA’s waiver request to HUD. In our recent correspondence (see the October 6 Advocate), we suggested several specific regulatory and statutory waivers that HUD should extend beyond the end of this year. One of our major points is that scoring under the two assessment systems, PHAS and SEMAP, should be deferred indefinitely until we reach normal status.

We noted the statutory underpinning of PHAS even encourages HUD not to hold HAs fully accountable during times of unforeseen circumstances like we find ourselves at this moment. The PHAS statute specifically states HAs should “not be penalized” for things that are outside of our control. Meanwhile, much of SEMAP is based in regulation so HUD can make needed changes in that program without congressional approval.

We have repeatedly conveyed this point to HUD leaders and have been told the Department is close to reaching decisions on the matter. Stay tuned for the latest information and be reassured the association will continue to make this case to HUD and Congress too.

 

Notable Changes at CLPHA, NAHRO

PHADA works closely with many other organizations in its advocacy efforts. Of course, some of our closest partners are the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA) and the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO). We have collaborated on many initiatives with the two industry groups including our annual budget request, recent correspondence to Congress on the pending reconciliation bill, and our joint effort to broadly expand the voucher program, among other things. I wanted to take this occasion to recognize some important leadership changes in the two groups.

CLPHA President Stephen Norman.

CLPHA President Stephen Norman (King County, WA) recently announced that he will retire at the end of 2021. Norman has been with King County over 25 years and been and industry leader on issues such as RAD and the MTW expansion. In his home community near Seattle, he has worked to reduce homelessness and broaden the reach of his agency so that it can serve more families in need. PHADA has appreciated working with Stephen during his long tenure as CLPHA President and wishes him all the best in retirement.

Former NAHRO President Sunny Shaw.

NAHRO just underwent some important leadership changes. Sunny Shaw’s (Pocatello, ID) term as President ended in October. Like PHADA’s own Immediate Past President John Hodge, most of Sunny’s term as president was subsumed by the pandemic. Nevertheless, she did an admirable job leading the organization during a tumultuous time, helping in our collective efforts to secure more funding along with new flexibilities we needed to maintain operations. Thank you for a job well done, Sunny.

NAHRO President Patricia Wells.

Patricia Wells (Oakland, CA) is NAHRO’s new President and PHADA Trustee George Guy (Fort Wayne, IN) was elected Senior Vice President. They come well prepared to their new leadership positions. Both have developed innovative policies with their HAs as active participants in the Moving to Work (MTW) program, for example. Like me and other PHADA leaders, they also have a strong interest in advancing the cause of racial equity in our programs. We look forward to working with Patricia and George over the next two years.

NAHRO Senior Vice President and PHADA Trustee George Guy.

I also wanted to note that former NAHRO Presidents Steve Merritt (Norwood, MA) and Don Cameron (Charleston, SC) recently announced they too will soon retire. Both were stellar NAHRO Presidents who will be missed.

The departure of these two important industry leaders in addition to Steve Norman’s retirement comes with a wave of other similar industry departures in recent years, and more are on the way with the natural progression of the calendar. This is why we must continue to engage in succession planning within our agencies and within our associations to recruit new leaders for the future. I will have more to say on this very important topic in coming editions of this column.