Members Stress Need for More Flexibility
PHADA President David A. Northern, Sr.
PHADA held its Annual Convention & Exhibition in San Antonio late last month. More than five hundred people attended our third in-person meeting since the pandemic’s onset, and I am happy to report that it was another success.
I want to thank all those who attended and point out that we are making convention material available even for those who were unable to make it to Texas. We appreciated seeing many first-time attendees in our committee meetings and general sessions. Our industry and individual agencies are experiencing a great deal of attrition, so it is essential that more people become engaged in the association’s mission and activities.
As always, we had topical issues on the agenda including workshops on Section 3, cybersecurity, the NSPIRE inspection program, effective resident screening techniques, the Moving to Work (MTW) expansion, and the new broadband programs. We were happy to see former PHADA Trustee Brian Gage, who now is with HUD’s San Antonio office. All the presentation materials from the sessions may be found on our website and on the Whova App.
Our various committees discussed PHADA’s positions and strategies on several matters including unpaid rents and rising tenant accounts receivable, HCV utilization concerns, and possible changes in criminal records screening. A major theme that continues to arise is that we are still not operating in “normal” conditions.
In addition to rental revenue problems, for example, HAs are now confronting other challenges including high staff turnover and rampant inflation that is delaying or driving up construction and rehabilitation projects. A lack of access to necessary supplies is another serious problem. PHADA strongly believes that HUD’s regulatory regime should be relaxed to account for these realities (i.e., PHAS scores should be advisory only) while also giving us more flexibility to operate based on local conditions.
MTW and Need for More Flexibility
We were delighted to have Marianne Nazzaro from HUD headquarters at PHADA’s meeting. She presented information on HUD’s latest MTW expansion cohort concerning asset building for residents. As I mentioned above, local flexibility is needed now more than ever before and the Moving to Work program provides HAs some more latitude.
I previously administered the Housing Authority of Champaign County (a MTW agency) so I appreciate the value of the program. My present agency, the Houston Housing Authority (HHA), was selected for participation in MTW and has developed a comprehensive plan that we submitted to HUD for its consideration.
Houston’s overall goal is to deliver services in a more efficient, streamlined manner that expands housing options while providing residents with more self-sufficiency and mobility opportunities. A major priority is to implement a tiered rent structure that incentivizes employment and simplifies our administrative procedures. We also plan to preserve and expand our affordable housing portfolio and promote innovations in supportive housing through project-based voucher program changes and local, non-traditional programs.
One of the most appealing aspects of MTW is that it permits HAs to use funds more flexibly to maximize their potential. In Houston, we are planning to use this flexibility to leverage other funds to support literacy, education and job training. HHA also plans to engage in more affordable housing development and preservation. Please visit here if you are interested in learning more about our programs. There is also a good deal of information on other MTW programs on HUD’s website.
Based on the challenges that HAs are dealing with, we would like to see Congress and HUD provide even more local flexibility than the types permitted under MTW. Federal policymakers should consider and explore other ways to give HAs more discretion so we can better serve residents based on local conditions. At a minimum, HUD should expeditiously grant individual waivers so HAs can better cope with staff and contractor shortages, inflation, declining revenues, lack of supplies and other local problems. Please be assured that PHADA will continue to press this point in our communications with HUD officials and Congress.