On October 16, HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) published the long-awaited proposed changes to the Demolition/Disposition regulations, 24 CFR part 970. PIH states that the purpose of the proposed rule is to increase oversight of demolition and disposition (sale or transfer) of public housing by requiring public housing agencies (PHAs) to submit more detailed justifications for demolition or disposition. The rule would also clarify and provide more detail related to existing requirements such as resident consultation and relocation, and fair housing and civil rights compliance.
In response to meetings with advocates in 2011, at which numerous problems experienced by public housing residents were presented, PIH issued Notice PIH 2012-7 explaining the process PHAs must follow when applying to HUD for approval to demolish and/or dispose of public housing. NLIHC considered the Notice to be very helpful because it emphasized the requirements for genuine resident consultation and clearly stated that applications must be complete so that resident involvement is meaningful (see Memo, 2/3/12).
NLIHC will assess the proposed rule to determine the extent to which it mirrors the positive elements of Notice PIH 2012-7, as well as assess additional provisions. NLIHC will also offer a sample comment letter for advocates. Comments are due December 15. What follows is a preliminary summary of some of the key provisions in the proposed rule.
As Section 18 of the Housing Act of 1937 requires, HUD must grant demolition requests unless the application was not developed in consultation with affected residents – a problem residents have identified. The proposed rule would provide more specificity regarding resident consultation requirements to ensure that resident consultation is as effective as possible. The rule would require:
- A description of the process of the resident consultations, summarizing the dates, meetings (including meeting sign-in sheets), and issues raised by residents as well as the PHA’s responses.
- Inclusion of any written comments submitted by affected residents and resident groups, along with the PHA’s responses.
- Inclusion of any written documents from the resident advisory board (RAB) and resident council regarding resident support or opposition.
- Documentation that the PHA communicated with affected residents and other required groups in a manner that was effective for people with hearing, visual, and other communications-related disabilities.
- Documentation that public hearing facilities and services were physically accessible to persons with disabilities.
- Documentation that appropriate written or oral translations and language assistance services were provided for people with limited English proficiency.
Residents have complained that demolition or disposition applications provided to them sometimes did not include all of the required information, leaving the residents with substantially incomplete information and rendering them unable to offer well-informed comments. The proposed rule, as the Notice did, would explicitly state that HUD will not consider an application unless the application contains all of the substantive information required.
Demolition or Disposition is a Significant Amendment to the PHA Plan
Residents have also raised concerns that their PHA did not consider demolition or disposition to be a “significant amendment” to the PHA Plan. Consequently the PHA did not provide the required RAB involvement, notice and outreach to residents and the public, or public hearing. The proposed rule would require a PHA to certify that it has specifically authorized the demolition or disposition in its PHA Plan or significant amendment.
“Qualified” PHAs, those with 550 or fewer public housing units and vouchers, combined, do not have to submit an Annual PHA Plan. The proposed rule would require qualified PHAs to describe the proposed demolition or disposition at the required annual public hearing, or at a second public hearing if the application is submitted between its required annual public hearings.
The proposed rule would strengthen the notice to be provided to residents who would be relocated. Notice would have to be provided to residents at least 90 days prior to the displacement date, except in cases of imminent threat to health and safety, but not before HUD has approved the application. The written notice would have to:
- Inform residents that HUD approved the demolition or disposition.
- Include a description of the resident relocation process.
- Be provided through an effective means of communication to persons with disabilities, and in the appropriate non-English language or languages to persons with limited English proficiency.
- Include a description of the statutorily required housing counseling services that will be available, including mobility counseling, and how a resident may access those services.
The current rule requires any residents relocated as a result of demolition or disposition to be to relocated to a location not less desirable than the housing and location from which the resident is being displaced. The proposed rule would define “not less desirable” within the definition of “comparable housing” to be not less desirable than the original neighborhood in terms of, in the aggregate, neighborhood safety: exposure to adverse environmental conditions; and quality of local schools, accessibility of amenities such as public transportation, employment, child care, medical services, shopping, and recreation. The comparable location should not expose displaced persons to increased segregation by race, national origin, or poverty. For residents with disabilities, comparable housing must include the accessibility features that the resident needs, and must be located in the most integrated setting appropriate for the resident to access to community-based services, and the resident’s ability to interact to the fullest extent possible with non-disabled persons.
The proposed rule would add civil rights requirements, including documentation that the
PHA is not in violation of any civil rights law, compliance agreement, settlement agreement, or court order. Certifications would be required that the demolition or disposition will not maintain or increase segregation based on race, ethnicity, or disability. The rule would also require a description of the civil rights-related characteristics of the residents who will be displaced by the action, the residents anticipated to remain in a public housing project that is partially demolished or disposed of, and of the residents on the PHA’s waiting list (by bedroom size). Civil rights-related characteristics include race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability.
A new provision would be added to provide for demolition of projects made necessary by disaster or sudden accident or casualty loss. The provisions would reflect HUD’s current practices that allow for such demolitions to ensure the health and safety of residents.
The Federal Register notice of the proposed rule is at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-10-16/pdf/2014-24068.pdf
Notice PIH 2012-7 is at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=pih2012-7.pdf