HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) published a notice in the Federal Register on October 5, listing regulatory and administrative waivers it will consider if requested by public housing agencies (PHAs) in areas officially designated by the Major Disaster Declarations (MDD) following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. PHAs may also request waivers not listed in the Federal Register. HUD will expedite all waiver requests by providing concurrent HUD headquarters and field office reviews. Typically, waiver requests are first submitted to the HUD field office and subsequently reviewed by headquarters. All approved waiver requests will be published in the Federal Register, identifying the PHAs receiving the approvals.
The Federal Register notice lists 20 potential waivers, most of which are only important to PHA staff, such as extending the time to submit financial audits or undertake energy audits. There are, however, a number of potential waivers that may be important to residents and advocates:
- Allow a voucher exception payment standard of up to 150% of the Fair Market Rent (FMR); the regular exception payment standard is 110% of the FMR.
- Allow occupancy of more than two persons per room, provided the assisted household consents.
- Allow a PHA to provide public notices when preparing to open its voucher waiting list via its website, voicemail, or posting at its offices, instead of requiring public notices in a newspaper. HUD reminds PHAs to consider the fair housing implications of alternative notification measures, keeping in mind difficulties various approaches might cause for people with disabilities or limited English proficiency. PHAs will still be required to provide notice in minority media.
- Extend to 90 days the timeframe to request “secondary verification” of immigration status from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
- Provide a number of exceptions related to demolition and/or disposition. There are five such wavers that warrant careful consideration by advocates.
The notice also lists three “flexibilities” applicable to the MDD PHAs and four potential waivers pertaining to the Indian Housing Block Grant and the Indian Community Development Block Grant programs.
HUD also emailed public housing agency (PHA) executive directors in Declared Disaster counties providing information regarding the availability of FEMA Public Assistance (PA) programs and data sharing. PHAs may be eligible to apply for FEMA Public Assistance grants for emergency work - including debris removal, demolition of unsafe structures, or boarding of windows – and for permanent work. HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) has been sending reports to PHAs about program participants who have registered for FEMA assistance. HUD will continue to send these reports on a regular basis.