HUD proposes amending the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) portability regulations to streamline the portability process for public housing agencies (PHAs) and to make it easier for families with HCVs to relocate to areas that may offer greater opportunities. Portability allows a family with an HCV to use that voucher to rent a home anywhere there is a PHA operating an HCV program. The PHA a family moves from is called the “initial PHA,” while the PHA the family moves to is called the “receiving PHA.”
Some of the proposed rule changes would affect all families receiving an HCV, not just those wishing to move to another city. For example, current regulations allow any family receiving an HCV only 60 days, the “initial term,” to locate a place to rent. Once a family has chosen a home to rent, they must submit a request to a PHA for it to complete a Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection and approve that home. Current regulations give PHAs discretion to either extend the term or to stop the clock on the term while families wait for a PHA to approve the home a family selected. HUD proposes to require PHAs to stop the clock and suspend the voucher term for all HCVs until a PHA approves or denies the home, giving households more time to locate a home.
In addition, in cases of HCV portability, HUD proposes requiring the voucher term of the receiving PHA to be 30 days after the initial PHA voucher term expires. The intention is to accommodate the additional time the portability process entails. For example, under the current regulations the time a family waits to attend the required briefing about the receiving PHA’s voucher policies counts against the family’s initial voucher expiration date, reducing the time available to locate a home.
The current rule allows a PHA to deny a family permission to move, either within the PHA’s jurisdiction or out of it, if the PHA does not have sufficient funding. HUD proposes to require PHAs in such a situation to notify HUD. In addition, HUD proposes to clarify existing language by stating that a receiving PHA cannot refuse to assist incoming portable families. However, HUD may determine that in certain situations a receiving PHA is not required to accept portability, for instance if a PHA is in a disaster area.
The proposed rule would also affect several PHA procedural and billing rules.
Along with the proposed rule changes, HUD explicitly seeks comments regarding six issues, four of which could be of direct interest to residents and advocates.
1. The current regulations require a family using portability to pass the screening criteria of the receiving PHA, which might be more stringent than the screening criteria of the initial PHA. HUD asks whether such rescreening should be prohibited or whether there should be standardized screening policies for portability moves.
2. The current regulations require PHAs to provide all families with a list of landlords who may be willing to rent to the family or others willing to help the family find a home. HUD wants to know whether such a list is helpful or if this requirement should be eliminated. HUD would also like to know if additional information about areas of opportunity would be more beneficial.
3. The current regulations require PHAs to brief all families when they are selected to receive an HCV.<
a. That briefing requires PHAs to explain to families living in high-poverty census tracts the potential benefits of moving to an area that does not have a high concentration of poverty. HUD asks whether such information should be provided to all households, not just those living in high-poverty areas.
b. HUD also asks whether the briefing should be revised to highlight the location factors and trade-offs that a family should consider, such as employment opportunities, school quality, access to social services and proximity to family and friends.
4. The current rule requires an initial PHA to decide which receiving PHA a family can move to if there is more than one PHA in the area to which a family wants to relocate. HUD is considering allowing the family to choose.
Comments are due by May 29, 2012. The Federal Register notice is at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-03-28/pdf/2012-7341.pdf.