For the first time, HUD has clarified how work preference policies must operate if a public housing agency (PHA) chooses to impose them for applicants on a public housing waiting list and for those already living in public housing. The guidance is in Notice PIH 2011-33 issued on June 24.
The regulations allow PHAs to choose to implement local preferences to prioritize households on the waiting list for both public housing and vouchers. Preferences must be based on local housing needs and priorities. In addition to working families, preferences listed in the regulations include people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, elderly, homeless, and displaced people.
According to the Notice, a PHA may not require a person to be working in order to be placed on a public housing waiting list. If there is a work preference, the PHA must give applicants an opportunity to show they qualify for the preference. If work preference is tied to a site-based waiting list, the PHA is obligated to tell applicants which of its developments are available with or without a work preference. PHAs are encouraged to give a work preference to a head of household who is the primary caregiver for a household member who is disabled.
The Notice also states that as a condition of continued occupancy at a specific public housing development, a lease may include an ongoing work activity requirement. For example, a lease may require a person to be engaged in employment, training, education, or self-sufficiency activities for a certain number of hours per week. A work activity continued occupancy lease cannot affect all public housing developments under the PHA’s authority. If someone becomes unemployed, underemployed, or otherwise fails to meet the work activity lease provision of their particular public housing development, the PHA may not terminate their public housing assistance, but the PHA may transfer that person’s household to another building that does not have work activity as part of its lease.
The PHA Plan and the Admissions and Continued Occupancy Policy (ACOP) should include a complete description of how any work activity preference or continued occupancy provision will be implemented. Wait list procedures must be open to input from residents and the community as part of the PHA Plan process.
PHAs are reminded that local preferences may not adversely affect the overall requirement that 40% of the families admitted to public housing during the year must be extremely low income, those with incomes below 30% of the area median income.
Notice PIH 2011-33 is at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=pih2011-33.pdf.