As noted in last week’s issue of Memo (3/30), the comment period for the Rental Assistance Program (RAD) was extended to April 23, 2012. PIH Notice 2012-18 provides all of the details concerning the proposed RAD conversion process. The FY12 Appropriations Act allows HUD to convert assistance provided for a limited number of units from public housing and three smaller private HUD-assisted housing programs to long-term, renewable, project-based Section 8 rental assistance or to project-based vouchers (see Memo, 11/18/11 and 3/9/12). The three smaller programs are Rent Supplement (Rent Supp), the Rental Assistance Program (RAP), and the Moderate Rehabilitation program (Mod Rehab).
NLIHC will provide a sample comment letter soon. In the meantime Memo highlights a number of preliminary concerns surfaced in conjunction with the National Housing Law Project, Greater Boston Legal Services, and the Housing Justice Network, an informal group of legal services advocates. A more detailed description of these issues is attached to this article.
PIH Notice 2012-18 considers a RAD application to be a Substantial Amendment to the PHA Plan, but allows this obligation to be triggered as late six months after HUD has initially endorsed an application for RAD conversion. At this stage the RAD application process will have progressed rather far in the process without benefit of full public, resident, and Resident Advisory Board (RAB) participation. Earlier and more comprehensive resident and public participation is essential. Continued resident and public engagement should also be required before each RAD benchmark to ensure that as ongoing decisions are made, there is vigorous and well-informed discussion. After conversion, a development should remain subject to the PHA Plan process.
A PHA’s or owner’s obligation to recognize and work with tenant organizations should prescribe, in detail, adherence to regulations governing public housing and HUD-assisted private housing. HUD should be clear that the PHA or owner must notify and consult with resident organizations about changes in policies and practices affecting tenants. The RAD notice should also clarify that any residents of public housing converted to project-based rental assistance (PBRA) can serve on the PHA Board of Commissioners. In addition, a resident organization in a converted property should be able to join a jurisdiction-wide resident organization.
Although the notice requires PHAs and owners of converted properties to continue to provide $25 per occupied unit annually for resident participation, it should explicitly require PHAs and owners to follow PIH Notice 2001-3 which calls for 100% of the funds to be controlled by resident councils instead of diverting $10 per unit to the PHA.
RAD proposals will be very complicated and residents may not know what their options and rights are. Therefore, HUD must provide residents and resident organizations with sufficient resources for residents to obtain technical assistance to help them understand and comment on RAD proposals.
The RAD notice only refers to the use of a grievance hearing when an owner terminates a tenancy. RAD should explicitly provide for the right to grieve any PHA or owner action and inaction that adversely affects residents. In public housing HUD has long required a two-step grievance process that first called for an informal grievance settlement, followed when necessary by a hearing. RAD should continue such a two-step process and incorporate all of the other detailed provisions in the public housing grievance regulations.
The notice should clearly state that the intent of RAD is preserving assisted, affordable rental housing. The notice allows demolition without HUD approval of a small number of units, a “de minimus amount” of 5% of a project’s units or five units, whichever is greater. HUD should remove the provision allowing unlimited demolition, without HUD approval and without one-for-one replacement, of units that have been vacant for more than two years or that are beyond reasonable repair.
The law allowing PHAs to project-base 20% of their HCV budget authority limits to 25% the number of units in any given development that can be assisted with PBVs (with exceptions for elderly and disabled people, and supportive housing for families). This limit provides a degree of income mixing in buildings not previously receiving HUD assistance. Congress allowed HUD to waive the PBV law in order to achieve RAD’s goal of preserving and improving public housing. HUD’s proposal to raise the cap on the number of units in a development using PBVs to 50% is insufficient in a RAD context. There should be no limit because public housing developments to be converted under RAD are already 100% occupied by eligible households. A 50% cap would force a PHA to find replacement units at other locations, and half of the residents would have to move from their homes.
If a RAD-converted property is threatened by foreclosure, the RAD law requires HUD to ensure that ownership be transferred first to a public entity and second to a private entity. HUD should specify that among private entities, preference should be given to nonprofit owners (with an additional preference for tenant organizations), and only then to other forms of private ownership.
HUD should augment resident choice mobility by giving significant competitive points to RAD applications that will provide mobility counseling and landlord outreach, and that pledge to commit more choice mobility vouchers than the caps set in the RAD notice. HUD proposes a good-cause exemption from the choice mobility requirement for up to 10% of all units in the RAD program for PHAs that only administer public housing or for PHAs that have more than one-third of their vouchers set aside for veterans or homeless people. This could result in no choice mobility for residents of such PHAs. Therefore, if an exemption is granted, RAD should require a PHA to still provide for some forms of mobility for current and future RAD residents.
PIH Notice 2012-18 is available from the RAD webpage, http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/RAD, as are videos of four previous HUD webcasts. An additional “RADcast” pertaining to the application template for converting public housing was held on Friday, April 6 and one about the template for converting Mod Rehab projects will be held on Tuesday, April 10 at 1:00 PM ET.