Slides and an audio recording are available from a tele-briefing advocates conducted on July 25 about HUD’s proposal to require public housing agencies (PHAs) in certain areas to use ZIP-code-based Small Area Fair Market Rents (SAFMRs) in the Housing Choice Voucher program (see Memo, 6/20). The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) hosted the tele-briefing, with participation by NLIHC, the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC). Each of the organizations strongly support the implementation of SAFMRs, which are intended to reduce concentrations of vouchers in low income areas and better enable voucher households to use vouchers in higher-cost rental markets where there might be better schools, less crime, and fewer environmental hazards.
Debby Goldberg from NFHA moderated the tele-briefing. Barbara Sard from CBPP provided a brief overview of how FMRs affect voucher subsidies, and Amber Lee from NCRC explained the key features of the proposed Small Area FMR rule.
While the presenters support SAFMRs, they also highlighted concerns and urged adjustments be made to some features of the proposed rule. NLIHC’s Ed Gramlich raised concerns about the likely impact on households currently using a voucher if the SAFMR in their ZIP code declines, resulting in a lower voucher payment standard. If their landlords do not lower the rent when payment standards are reduced, voucher households’ rents could increase, causing them to spend more than 30% of their income for rent and utilities. Other landlords might decide to exit the program if they think they can obtain pre-SAFMR rents from households who do not need vouchers, leading to displacement of low income households. The presenters shared various possible solutions to these concerns.
Another concern relates to the formula HUD proposes to use to determine which PHAs must comply with the SAFMR rule. As proposed, PHAs in 31 metropolitan areas would be required to comply. Advocates in some of these areas, such as New York City and Oakland California, fear that many voucher households could be displaced, with few places to move to due to very low vacancy rates. Another concern with the formula is that many metropolitan areas with higher concentrations of vouchers in low income areas of racial and ethnic communities are not among the 31 SAFMR areas. Phil Tegeler from PRRAC and Barbara Sard from CBPP discussed this issue and offered suggestions that could improve the formula’s effectiveness.
The tele-briefing is available at: https://youtu.be/WpdZ-gn7ogM