NLIHC, along with 95 other organizations and individuals, submitted comments about Notice PIH-2012-18 which proposed the method by which HUD would implement the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) experiment. The comment period regarding RAD ended on April 23.
The FY12 HUD appropriations act allows HUD to convert assistance provided for up to 60,000 units of public and Moderate Rehabilitation (Mod Rehab) housing to long-term, renewable, project-based Section 8 rental assistance or to project-based vouchers (see Memo, 11/18/11, 3/9/12, 4/6/12, and 4/20/12). RAD also allows unlimited conversion for three smaller programs: Rent Supplement (Rent Supp), Rental Assistance Program (RAP), and Mod Rehab.
NLIHC is particularly concerned about HUD’s proposal to limit to 50% the number of public or assisted housing units in a development that could be converted to project-based vouchers (PBVs). NLIHC writes that the cap “is inappropriate and counter to HUD’s negotiating stance that every unit is precious. The statute authorizing RAD states that the ‘demonstration is designed to preserve and improve public housing and certain other multifamily housing.’ Therefore, in the RAD context there should be no limit. If the cap is not removed, the viability of the demonstration, and NLIHC’s support for it, will disappear.”
A preliminary scan of the comments indicates that a wide array of commenters also criticized the 50% cap, such as in a letter signed by six fair housing organizations and in letters from the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, the National Council of State Housing Finance Agencies, and Wells Fargo Multifamily Capital.
NLIHC also makes a number of suggestions to strengthen resident and public participation in the planning and decision-making process:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. After conversion, the RAD notice should continue to follow PIH Notice 2001-3, which proscribes siphoning off to the PHA $10 of the $25 per occupied unit intended for use by resident councils for resident participation activities.
- HUD should remove three exemptions that would allow PHAs to demolish, dispose of, or convert units, beyond a 5% maximum, without HUD Section 18 approval. Those exemptions, such as not counting units that have been vacant for more than two years or that are beyond reasonable repair, have the potential to result in the loss of too many units and undermining of RAD’s intent to preserve public housing.
- If a RAD-converted public housing property is threatened with foreclosure, the RAD statute requires HUD to ensure that ownership is transferred to a public entity, and if that is not possible, then to a private entity. NLIHC commented that the Notice should specify that among private entities, preference should be given first to tenant organizations, second to a nonprofit endorsed by tenants, and third to other nonprofit owners. Only after these 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 converting public housing or Mod Rehab units to PBRA that commit to providing a percentage of choice mobility turnover vouchers greater than the cap of one-third of turnover vouchers or 20% of a project’s assisted units.
- The ability of residents to file a grievance should not be limited by a PHA’s or owner’s action to terminate tenancy. The notice should explicitly provide for the right of residents to file a grievance with a PHA or owner whenever there is any inaction as well as action that adversely affects residents.
All comments as well as Notice PIH 2012-18, are available at www.regulations.gov. Enter FR-5630-N-02, click on “Open Docket Folder,” and at the top of the folder find the “public submissions” button to check.