NLIHC, the National Housing Law Project, and other members of the Housing Justice Network sent a letter to HUD Assistant Secretary Sandra Henriquez on February 17 suggesting a number of reforms to the regulations pertaining to public housing demolition or disposition.
During a November 16, 2010 meeting with Secretary Shaun Donovan and NLIHC’s Board and State Partners, Assistant Secretary Henriquez indicated she would look more closely at the public housing demolition/disposition application review process. Her remark echoed a letter to Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) from Secretary Donovan last August in which he stated that public housing demolition applications needed to be reviewed more closely, acknowledging “the unintended consequences demolition and disposition may have had on the lives of public housing residents in the past, as well as a decrease in the number of long-term affordable housing units that has resulted in some cases.”
In their letter, the advocates ask HUD to consider amending 24 C.F.R. part 970, to address three broad categories: stronger resident participation, more informative applications, and more rigorous HUD application reviews.
To improve resident participation, regulations should declare demolition or disposition to be a “substantial amendment” for PHA Plan purposes, thereby emphasizing public participation obligations. PHAs should be required to provide residents with a completed application for review and comment at least 90 days before it is submitted to HUD. Further, complete applications, modifications, and correspondence between HUD and the PHA should be posted on both the PHA’s website and a publicly accessible HUD website
A more complete demolition/disposition application should include 1) plans for reuse of the site on a short- and long-term basis; 2) plans for replacement units, if any, including their size, number, location, and affordability, along with any priorities or preferences for displaced tenants; 3) the number of Section 8 housing vouchers the PHA plans to request for relocation; and 4) an analysis of any discriminatory impact on residents, waiting list applicants, and the low income community, together with a plan for mitigating any adverse impact.
The advocates propose four areas in which HUD should more rigorously review demolition and disposition applications. First, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) should certify that an application complies with various civil rights laws by assessing, among other features, a required description and analysis of the impact of the proposed demolition or disposition on the supply, location, availability, and affordability of housing for groups protected by the Fair Housing Act.
Second, in order to preserve the existing public housing stock, HUD should restore its pre-2006 test of whether a project is “obsolete” – that the cost of rehabilitation and modernization exceeds 90% of the total development cost (TDC). In 2006 HUD reduced the test to 62.5% of TDC for buildings with elevators and 57.14% of TDC for all others.
Third, a more detailed and universally applicable set of relocation provisions should require tenant protection vouchers as an option for residents; comprehensive housing search assistance for those receiving vouchers; assurance that total housing costs will not increase through the use of vouchers; moving costs such as security deposits and application fees; and, if replacement housing is provided, a right to return.
Finally, HUD should review demolition applications to determine how a PHA plans to maximize employment opportunities for Section 3 individuals, ideally requiring applications to indicate numbers and job classifications for anticipated jobs, as well as dollar amounts, that will be set aside for contracting opportunities for Section 3 businesses.
A copy of the letter is at http://nlihc.org/doc/HJN_Letter_DemoDispo_Regs.pdf