As previously noted in Memo, the comment period regarding 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, 3/9/12, and 4/6/12). The three smaller programs are Rent Supplement (Rent Supp), the Rental Assistance Program (RAP), and the Moderate Rehabilitation program (Mod Rehab). PIH Notice 2012-18 is available from the RAD webpage at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/RAD.
NLIHC offers the following sample RAD comment letter in this week’s Memo and encourages advocates to submit similar comments through www.regulations.gov.
Office of General Counsel
Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street SW
Washington, DC 20410-0500
Re: Docket No. FR-5630-N-01, Rental Assistance Demonstration: Notice of Web Availability and Request for Comments
April XX, 2012
[Brief description of your organization and why there is interest in RAD.]
With the continued loss of public housing due to inadequate Congressional appropriations for capital improvements, we agree that alternative financing methods should be considered in order to preserve the stock of public housing and to keep it in the public domain. The Rental Assistance Demonstration is an improvement over earlier plans offered by the Administration and we support it in general. Indeed, there are many positive aspects of the proposed Notice. However, [Name of Organization] has a number of concerns and offers the following comments.
A RAD Application is a Substantial Amendment to the PHA Plan
The draft Notice would allow the submission of a Substantial Amendment to the PHA Annual or Five-Year Plan to be submitted along with a RAD Financing Plan, which may be six months after HUD has given tentative approval of a RAD conversion application. By this stage the PHA has invested too much effort to be effectively swayed by resident and public comment.
The PHA Plan Substantial Amendment process requiring Resident Advisory Board (RAB) consultation, 45-day public notice, a public hearing, and “public outreach to encourage broad public participation” must take place before a RAD application is submitted to HUD. All public housing and voucher residents of the PHA, citywide and development-specific resident councils, as well as the general public must have an opportunity to inform preliminary RAD plans.
We also suggest that the Notice be modified to require the RAD Substantial Amendment process be separate from any Annual Plan process for non-qualified PHAs in order to prevent a RAD proposal from being buried in an already crowded Annual PHA Plan review and comment process.
Continuous Resident and Public Participation
Ongoing, full resident and public engagement should be required before each RAD conversion milestone to ensure that when decisions must be made and when changes to the plan need to be made, the RAB, all public housing and voucher residents, and the public, have an opportunity to review and comment.
After conversion, developments converted to project-based rental assistance (PBRA) should remain subject to the PHA Plan process, the development’s resident organization should be allowed to join a jurisdiction wide resident organization, and any of the development’s residents should be allowed to serve on the PHA Board of Commissioners.
$25 Per Unit Fund For Resident Participation
The Notice requires PHAs and owners of converted properties to continue to provide $25 per occupied unit annually for resident participation. Although the regulations only require $15 of this to be directly provided to a resident organization, PIH Notice 2001-3 remains in effect and directs the full $25 to be controlled by resident councils. The RAD Notice should continue to follow PIH Notice 2001-3.
Technical Assistance for Residents
HUD must provide residents and resident organizations with sufficient resources to enable them to obtain technical assistance to help them understand and effectively participate in the RAD process.
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 PHA or owner inactions as well as actions that adversely affect residents such as rent adjustment, transfer denial, change in household composition, and serious housing quality problems, among others.
HUD has long required a two-step process that first calls for an informal grievance settlement, followed if necessary by a hearing. The first step often results in resolving problems without the need for a more formal grievance hearing. For RAD, HUD should require an informal grievance resolution stage in addition to providing for the proposed hearing process for those cases that cannot be resolved. In addition, the grievance hearing must include all of the components in the public housing grievance regulations.
The Notice ought to clearly state that the purpose of RAD is to preserve assisted, affordable rental housing, and that there must be one-for-one replacement if units are lost in excess of the “de minimis” standard 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.
Allow 100% of the Units in a Development to be Converted to Project-Based Vouchers
HUD’s proposal to raise the cap on the number of units in a development using PBVs from 25% to 50% is insufficient. In the RAD context there should be no limit because the public housing developments to be converted 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 be forced to move from their homes.
Ownership of Converted Units
If a RAD-converted property is threatened with foreclosure, the RAD law requires HUD to ensure that ownership is transferred to a public entity, and if that is not possible, then to a private entity. The Notice should specify that among private entities, preference should be given to nonprofit owners, with an additional preference for tenant organizations. Only after these four options have failed should other forms of private ownership be sought.
HUD should give significant ranking points to applications that commit to provide mobility counseling, landlord outreach, enhanced rents in high opportunity areas, and other activities that facilitate choice mobility. Additional ranking points should be awarded to PHAs that commit to providing a percentage of choice mobility vouchers greater than the Notice’s cap of one-third of turnover vouchers or 20% of a project’s assisted units.
For units converted to PBRA, a PHA should be required to honor all eligible choice mobility requests, at least up to a level of one-third of the PHA’s turnover vouchers.
The Notice proposes an exemption from the choice mobility requirement for up to 10% of all units in the RAD program for PHAs that do not administer a voucher program or that set aside more than one-third of their vouchers for veterans or homeless people. If HUD awards RAD status to an exempt PHA its residents would have no choice mobility. Therefore, HUD must require an exempt PHA to provide for some forms of mobility for current and future RAD residents.
This sample RAD comment letter is attached.