HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) issued Notice PIH 2012-7 explaining the process public housing agencies (PHAs) must follow when applying to HUD for approval to demolish and/or dispose of (sell) public housing. NLIHC considers the notice to be very helpful because it emphasizes the requirements for genuine resident consultation and clearly states that applications must be complete so that resident involvement is meaningful.
The primary set of problems identified by public housing residents and advocates entails various forms of inadequate resident consultation. Some PHAs do not consider an application for demolition/disposition to be a “significant amendment” to a PHA Plan; therefore, residents have been denied the ability to review and comment on an application in a public hearing context. When demolition/disposition is mentioned during the PHA Plan process, sometimes the application is not available for residents, or residents only see an application with very little relevant information.
The notice addresses these problems in many ways, most significantly by declaring in several places that demolition/disposition applications constitute a “significant amendment” to the PHA Plan, thereby triggering the PHA Plan process entailing public notice and comment, a public hearing and consultation with the Resident Advisory Board (RAB). It adds that PHAs must undertake reasonable outreach to encourage broad public participation in the PHA Plan hearing.
PHAs should provide a copy of the application to residents, post it on the PHA’s website, or make it available for review at the PHA’s central office, according to the notice. PHAs should inform residents that they have the right to submit written comments, and that the PHA will respond in writing and submit both residents’ comments and the PHA response as part of the application. The notice adds that residents and the public may submit comments on a proposed application directly to HUD.
To address the problem of inadequate information in applications, the notice requires PHAs to provide residents information about the replacement development, including number and affordability of public housing and other replacement units, number of bedrooms per unit, screening and application requirements, and the policy regarding residents’ opportunity to return.
Another significant problem experienced by some by residents and advocates has been HUD’s approval of applications that had not undergone resident review, or that were incomplete. The notice addresses these problems by declaring that HUD will not process or approve a demolition/disposition application that is incomplete or that does not provide evidence that the PHA has complied with the PHA Plan requirements, which includes resident consultation.
Some PHAs have begun shutting down properties or relocating residents before HUD approval of a demolition/disposition application. The notice clearly declares that PHAs may not begin any demolition or disposition, including resident relocation, before receiving written HUD approval.
Residents and advocates have complained that on occasion HUD would simply accept the PHA’s certification that a structure met the HUD definition of “obsolete.” According to the notice, HUD will review allegations from residents or advocates that the PHA’s certification is inconsistent. In addition, HUD states that a high vacancy rate alone does not justify obsolescence.
NLIHC estimates that the demolition and disposition of public housing still results in the loss of about 10,000 homes annually. “This level of loss of homes affordable to the lowest income people tears a big hole in the American safety net,” said Sheila Crowley, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in a February 2 press release. “We applaud HUD for revisiting the demolition and disposition issue and responding to the very real needs of our country’s lowest income people.”
“Demolition or disposition might be the right thing to do in some cases, but in the end, it means taking away residents’ homes,” said George Moses, Chairman of the Board of the National Low Income Housing Coalition and a long-time advocate for public housing residents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “I am glad that HUD is helping make sure that residents have the opportunity to understand and weigh in on what happens to their homes and their futures.”
PIH Notice 2012-7 is available at: www.nlihc.org/doc/HUD_PIH_Notice_2012-7.pdf
The NLIHC press release is available at http://nlihc.org/press/releases/2-2-12