Advocates Detail Residents’ RAD Problems

The National Housing Law Project (NHLP) sent a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson describing the many problems residents of public housing have encountered when their developments are scheduled to convert or ultimately convert under the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) to either the Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) or Project-Based Voucher (PBV) programs. While NHLP supports the goal of the demonstration to preserve affordable housing and address the $49 billion backlog of public housing capital needs, the organization is troubled that RAD has nearly quadrupled in size over the last five years without any evaluation of its impact on residents. NHLP asserts that RAD must be adequately implemented, monitored, and evaluated before further expansion occurs. NHLP also states that HUD must take a more proactive role to enforce residents’ rights and prevent the loss of affordable housing.

Highlights of the problems enumerated in the letter include:

Lack of Transparency Before, During, and After RAD Conversion. Public housing agencies (PHAs) routinely deny residents and advocates access to plans and documents related to RAD conversions, or do not provide the information in a timely manner. Consequently, residents are unable to make informed choices and exercise their rights. After conversion, HUD has not collected data to ensure compliance with the RAD statute or implementation requirements specified in Notice PIH 2012-32, REV3.

Resident Education about RAD Conversion. HUD only requires PHAs to conduct three meetings with residents, which is inadequate to explain the changes that residents will experience as their property converts and which is insufficient to discuss the complex options presented at the time of conversion. Sometimes, PHAs do not present the minimum amount of information required by the statute. In other situations, PHAs include only the information required by HUD, leaving out important topics such as whether the conversion will be to PBVs or PBRA, whether there will be temporary relocation, how the PHA plans to maintain an interest in the property after the RAD conversion, and key resident rights provided by the RAD statute (i.e. right to remain, prohibition of re-screening existing residents, and grievance procedures).

Resident Relocation. Despite clear requirements, PHAs frequently have inadequate relocation policies. NHLP and its local partners identified situations in which PHAs or owners fail to provide residents with adequate notice as required by law, provide the required relocation advisory services, or create adequate written relocation plans or comply with their own written relocation plans. In some situations the temporary housing provided is uninhabitable or an inadequate size for the household, in violation of the Uniform Relocation Act and RAD requirements.

Resident Organizing. PHAs and owners frequently interfere with tenant organizing activities. NHLP reports that there are many instances of PHAs and owners explicitly impeding or prohibiting resident organizing efforts by interfering with the distribution of leaflets, interfering with meetings and elections (including demanding that the property manager attend resident organization meetings), threatening to have non-tenant resident organizers arrested for organizing residents, and failing to give resident organizations the funds that must be made available to them.

Resident Re-Screening. Although prohibited by the RAD statute, residents are routinely re-screened at the time of conversion for income, credit history, criminal history, and other requirements, especially at properties that will be utilizing Low Income Housing Tax Credits. For example, residents have been expressly told that they are “over-income” for a RAD-converted building or that they will only be “grandfathered in” for a finite amount of time. This has resulted in evictions and monetary buy-out packages that force residents to move from the property, despite their right to remain after conversion.

Resident Grievance Procedures. Although prohibited by the RAD statute, numerous residents have been denied their right to grievance procedures. Owners routinely fail to include references to the grievance procedures in their “house rules.” As a result, owners have evicted and attempted to evict residents without access to, or notice of, their right to a grievance procedure. Owners have also attempted to evict tenants without good cause and with notices that fail to give a sufficient reason for termination.

Fair Housing. Explicit violations of fair housing and civil rights laws have been identified, such as familial status discrimination, failure to provide reasonable accommodations to residents with disabilities, and failure to provide translation services to individuals with limited English proficiency. Other examples include concentrating disability-accessible units in RAD properties and failing to adopt emergency transfer plans that allow survivors of domestic violence to move rapidly to escape life-threatening situations.

Transfers of Assistance. In transfers of assistance, residents are told they must move a significant distance away from the public housing property. Such transfers will have a devastating impact on residents because they will be moved far from their friends, families, workplaces, churches, schools, and medical providers.

After a HUD oversight hearing conducted by the House Financial Services Committee, Ranking Member Maxine Waters (D-CA) entered the NHLP letter into the Congressional Record.

More information about RAD is on NHLP’s website.

NLIHC’s 2017 Advocates’ Guide also has information about RAD on page 4-15.