HUD will be hosting four in-person listening sessions to discuss a draft Operations notice outlining requirements for implementing the expansion of the Moving to Work (MTW) Demonstration. Although an email says the sessions are for public housing agencies (PHAs), HUD assures NLIHC that residents, resident leaders, and advocates are welcome to participate. The listening sessions will be in Newark, NJ on April 26; Washington, DC on April 28; Denver, CO on May 2; and Fort Worth, TX on May 4.
The “Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016” authorized HUD to expand the MTW demonstration to an additional 100 high-performing PHAs over a seven-year period (see Memo, 12/21/15). PHAs will be added to the MTW demonstration in annual groups (cohorts), each of which will be overseen by a research advisory committee to ensure the demonstrations are evaluated with rigorous research protocols, quantitative analysis, and comparisons to control groups. Each year’s cohort of MTW sites will be directed by HUD to test one specific policy change.
HUD published previews of a draft Operations notice and Notice PIH 2017-1 on January 19 that invited PHAs to apply to participate in the first cohort. Official publications were scheduled for January 23, but late in the afternoon on January 23, HUD sent an email stating that it was “revisiting the two notices” and “as a result, these notices will not be posted today.” NLIHC described PIH 2017-1 based on the January 19 preview version (see Memo, 1/23). The Operations notice remained in the January 23 Federal Register with a comment period open until March 24, while PIH 2017-1 was never officially published. On February 24, HUD sent an email stating that it planned to publish a Federal Register notice announcing an update to the Operations notice with additional time for comment. As a result, many stakeholders have not submitted comments. The upcoming listening sessions will be based on the January 23 version of the Operations notice.
HUD describes the Operations notice as a framework for the MTW demonstration expansion that streamlines and simplifies oversight of participating PHAs while providing rigorous evaluation of specific policy changes. HUD is seeking to reduce the data collection and reporting requirements for expansion MTW PHAs while focusing on financial data, basic program monitoring and performance assessment, and an evaluation of the specific policy changes to be tested by each cohort.
The notice discusses three categories of statutory and regulatory waivers that MTW agencies could pursue:
- General waivers would be available to all MTW expansion agencies without review by HUD. They could include:
- Allowing up to 100% of the units in a property to have project-based vouchers (PBVs) if the additional units above the current statutory cap of 25% [the notice mistakenly has the cap at 20%] are for homeless, elderly, disabled, or veteran populations, or if the property is in a high opportunity area.
- Creating an alternative Family Self-Sufficiency program.
- Restructuring initial, annual, and interim income reviews.
- Compensating landlords if there is significant tenant damage, and providing up to three months of lost payments due to vacancies.
- Conditional waivers would be available if approved by HUD. The notice indicates that conditional waivers are expected to have a greater and more direct impact on households. They could include:
- Creating minimum rents (not to exceed $250) that could go up to 50% of adjusted income.
- Calculating rent as a percent of gross income, not to exceed 40% of gross income (27% for elderly or disabled households).
- Allowing new voucher households to spend more than 40% of adjusted income at initial occupancy.
- Creating “stepped rents” for voucher households that increases a household’s rent payments on a fixed schedule until the household’s voucher assistance becomes zero.
- Creating “income bands” or ranges for public housing households for calculating rent based on adjusted income or flat rents within the bands. The notice declares that income bands may result in tenants paying more than 30% of adjusted income for rent and utilities.
- Establishing work requirements (which could include substitutes for work). Services or referrals to services must be provided by the PHA. Work requirements could not apply to persons with a disability or to families that include someone with a disability, but people with disabilities could not be prevented from working.
- Creating term limits no shorter than five years.
- Establishing a voucher payment standard of up to 200% of Fair Market Rents.
- Contributing MTW funds for the development of a Low Income Housing Tax Credit project.
- Cohort-specific waivers would be available only to MTW agencies implementing a specific cohort policy change. At the time of selection to the MTW expansion, a PHA will be selected to test a specific policy change which is to be defined in a series of notices soliciting applications for participation in MTW, such as the withdrawn Notice PIH 2017-1.
NLIHC is concerned that the draft Operations notice places policy changes that could be most harmful to residents in the conditional waiver category, rather than the cohort-specific category. Time limits, work requirements, and rent reforms such as rents not based on household income (flat rents, tiered rents, stepped rents) should be rigorously tested only as part of a cohort, as was indicated in the withdrawn Notice PIH 2017-1.
Another concern is that neither the draft Operations notice nor the withdrawn PIH 2017-1 state that a PHA considering applying for MTW status should engage residents and the public through the PHA Plan Significant Amendment process, which requires input from the Resident Advisory Board (RAB) and a public review and comment period that includes a public hearing following extensive community outreach.
On a positive note, the draft Operations notice would require an expansion MTW agency to spend at least 90% of its annual voucher budget authority on eligible Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) expenses. This would prevent excessive diversion of voucher funds to so-called “eligible non-HAP expenses” such as providing services (which should be provided by other sources).
To effectively participate in the listening sessions, advocates should carefully read the Operations notice. Although PIH 2017-1 does not officially exist and it is likely to change, familiarity with its four proposed cohort topics would be helpful.
Register for listening sessions at:
- Newark, NJ - April 26, 2017
- Washington, DC - April 28, 2017
- Denver, CO - May 2, 2017
- Ft. Worth, TX - May 4, 2017
The draft Operations notice is at: http://bit.ly/2j3meSJ
The withdrawn preview copy of Notice PIH 2017-1 is at: http://bit.ly/2oXN6rf