Comments regarding the proposed changes to the HOME program regulations were due on February 14. On a conference call to discuss the FY13 budget for the programs hosted by HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development, Assistant Secretary Mercedes Márquez said that the final HOME rule would be published this summer, earlier than previously predicted.
NLIHC’s HOME regulation comments recognize that HUD has observed the operation of the program for a number of years and has been compiling regulatory improvements based on experiences gained since the previous substantive amendments to the regulations in 1996. NLIHC wrote that the vast majority of the proposed regulations made operational sense. However, NLIHC suggested modifications to several proposed provisions and registered opposition to a number of others.
NLIHC opposed eliminating the option of allowing community housing development organizations (CHDOs) to rely on volunteers and experienced board members or to engage an experienced consultant to carry out HOME activities. HUD’s proposal to require a CHDO to retain paid employees with housing development experience on staff would greatly hamper CHDOs that have succeeded in carrying out HOME activities despite lacking the resources for full-time development staff. The proposed rule does not provide a transition period, nor does it provide for new CHDOs to emerge as new constituencies arise or as housing needs shift from one part of a jurisdiction to another.
By endangering the work of existing, capable CHDOs and potential new CHDOs, HUD would be acting contrary to the spirit and letter of the National Affordable Housing Act (NAHA), which authorized the HOME program. NAHA lists expanding the capacity of CHDOs as a HOME program purpose.
NLIHC writes in support of permitting jurisdictions to charge fees to owners of rental projects in order to cover the cost of their ongoing income eligibility monitoring and physical inspection of HOME projects during the affordability period. NLIHC agrees in its comments that allowing monitoring fees might be an incentive for jurisdictions to impose affordability periods longer than the minimum required under the existing rule.
NLIHC also supports allowing additional HOME funds to be invested in a project in order to preserve HOME rental projects that have become financially troubled. However, NLIHC is disappointed that the rule would not require the affordability period to be extended. NAHA states that another purpose of the HOME program is “to ensure that federal investment produces housing stock available and affordable to low income families for the property’s remaining useful life.” The proposed rule would also shorten the affordability period of properties reconstructed after a disaster, a feature that NLIHC opposes.
NLIHC opposes the use of HOME to develop HOPE VI units. NAHA prohibits HOME funds from “replacing public housing that is demolished or disposed of.” The primary activity of many HOPE VI projects has been demolition of public housing units, replacing them with market-rate or LIHTC units and only a small percentage of public housing (ACC) units, denying long-time residents the opportunity to return to their neighborhood.
NLIHC objects to allowing jurisdictions to limit the beneficiaries or give preferences to particular segments of the low income population such as police, teachers, or artists. A jurisdiction’s Consolidated Plan must identify the populations and housing types that have the greatest needs and that ought to be assigned the highest priority for using HUD and other resources toward addressing those greatest needs.
NLIHC opposes reducing on-site inspections of multifamily properties to every three years because too many deficiencies can accumulate during such a timespan. In addition, NLIHC comments that if an on-site inspection detects deficiencies, a follow-up on-site inspection to verify that deficiencies were corrected should be conducted within three to six months, depending on the type of deficiency, which is sooner than 12 months as proposed by HUD.
Two provisions would jeopardize a renter household’s housing stability. NLIHC objects to allowing the use of HOME tenant-based rental assistance (TBRA) to create and administer a self-sufficiency program requiring a family to participate as a condition of selection for TBRA. NLIHC also opposes the provision allowing a tenant’s failure to follow a transitional housing services plan to be a basis for terminating a tenancy or refusing to renew a lease.
NLIHC’s comment letter is available at: http://nlihc.org/doc/NLIHC_HOME_Regs_Comment_Ltr_2-14-12.pdf