Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition Calls on HUD to Modify Disaster-Related Waivers

NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel sent a letter to HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge and other agency officials expressing concern at recent actions by the agency to waive statutory and regulatory requirements for grant programs in the areas most severely impacted by Hurricane Ida. The waivers apply to grant programs offered by HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD), including the HOME program and the Housing Opportunities for People with Aids (HOPWA) program, and were designed to increase program funding flexibility to allow jurisdictions to address disaster impacts quickly. The letter was sent on behalf of the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) – a group of over 850 local, state, and national organizations working to ensure that all disaster survivors receive the assistance they need to fully recover – and comes as the disaster recovery process begins in areas such as Louisiana, New York, and New Jersey.

While the waiver notice contains multiple statutory and regulatory changes that will assist communities in addressing post-disaster housing needs, several are overly broad, including those waiving property standards for repaired subsidized units and comprehensive plan public-input requirements for two years following the disaster. The scope and length of these modifications may result in HUD-assisted tenants living in substandard or inaccessible housing units or the redirection of program funding away from those most in need of assistance after Hurricane Ida. These changes raise concerns about lax regulation similar to allegations made during recent implementation of HUD Community Development Block Grant–Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding.

In a separate change, HUD allowed displaced households whose income documentation was destroyed or made inaccessible by the storm to self-certify their income and remain qualified for assistance. However, HUD is requiring that families complete FEMA applications to certify their displacement – a process that often requires numerous personal and financial documents. As a result, families that might otherwise take advantage of this benefit would be unable to do so.

“I want to express my appreciation for HUD’s quick action to spur housing recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida,” said Diane in the letter. “As impacted areas continue to recover, many will look to HUD to ensure that federal standards are being enforced and that funding, whether through HOME, HOPWA, or CDBG-DR, is being utilized in an efficient and equitable manner. I urge the agency to correct these specific waiver issues and ensure that survivors of Hurricane Ida can access this important funding in the weeks and months ahead.”

Read the letter at: https://bit.ly/3klYbOt

Read the HUD CPD Waiver Notifications at: https://bit.ly/3tOdVNl