HUD Acting Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development (CPD) John Gibbs signed a Memorandum, “Suspensions and Waivers to Facilitate Use of HOME-Assisted Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) for Emergency and Short-term Assistance in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic,” dated April 10 that provides a number of waivers to the HOME Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) program regulations in order to facilitate use of TBRA to meet urgent housing assistance needs for households experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Two waivers are only available to participating jurisdictions (PJs) in presidentially declared major disaster areas as a result of coronavirus. Another eight waivers are available to all PJs. HUD’s Office of Affordable Housing Programs (OAHP) administers the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) within CPD.
While HOME program funds are primarily a resource for the construction of affordable housing, HUD recognizes that the coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread economic damage and created an unprecedented need for housing assistance among households directly affected. The waivers provided in the Memorandum are intended to make it easier for PJs to use HOME funds for TBRA for households experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic by: 1) providing immediate rental assistance to households seeking housing, 2) assisting households that have housing but face reduced or lost wages, and 3) assisting existing TBRA households who need additional assistance due to reduced or lost wages.
On April 10, Acting Assistant Secretary Gibbs signed another Memorandum, “Availability of Waivers and Suspensions of the HOME Program Requirements in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic.” A separate article summarizing that Memorandum is in this issue of Memo.
PJs in Presidentially Declared Major Disaster Areas
HOME Certification Regarding Analysis of Local Market Conditions
HUD is waiving the requirement that a PJ certify that the use of HOME funds for TBRA is an essential element of the Consolidated Plan (ConPlan) and that it has conducted an analysis of local needs. Also, a PJ will not have to amend its ConPlan to include or revise an analysis of local market conditions before implementing a TBRA program. A PJ may simply amend its Annual Action Plan to reflect the use of HOME funds for TBRA.
Tenant Selection and Targeted Assistance
HUD is waiving the requirement that a PJ establish or revise existing written tenant selection criteria for its TBRA program, enabling a PJ to assist households requiring immediate housing assistance as a result of the pandemic. A PJ must document its criteria for selecting households to be assisted by the TBRA program. This waiver is in effect through December 31, 2020.
Waivers Available to All PJs
Key waivers available to all PJs, including those not in presidentially declared major disaster areas, include:
Allowing a PJ to reduce the public notice and comment period to five days when it amends its approved Annual Action Plan to reprogram HOME funds to use for TBRA to address housing needs related to the pandemic.
Allowing a PJ to pay the full cost of monthly utilities in addition to rental assistance and security deposit payments for new and existing TBRA households affected by the pandemic. PJs may provide up to 100% subsidy for rent, security deposit payments, and utility bills paid by tenants affected by a reduction or loss of income due to the pandemic. The waiver also eliminates the need for a PJ to establish utility allowances for different types and sizes of units for its TBRA program. A PJ may make utility payments directly to a tenant or utility company based on utility bills submitted for the assisted unit either by mail or electronically. This waiver is in effect through December 31, 2020.
Waiving the requirement that a rental assistance contract begin on the first day of the term of a lease. This waiver will enable a PJ to assist tenants who are currently housed, including existing TBRA households who have experienced sudden financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. Because affected households already have executed leases, it is impossible for the TBRA contract to begin on the first day of the term of a lease. This waiver is in effect through December 31, 2020.
Allowing a PJ to assist individuals currently housed with an executed lease already in place who are unable to pay rent and/or utilities due to job loss or reduced wages. This waiver is needed for any executed lease that includes one or more of the tenant protection prohibited lease terms. This waiver is in effect through December 31, 2020.
Waiving initial and annual Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspections. This will eliminate the risk of housing inspectors contracting or spreading the coronavirus. This requirement is waived through December 31, 2020. However, the lead-safe housing requirements cannot be waived. Therefore units built before 1978 must undergo visual evaluation and paint repair if necessary. A PJ using this waiver must establish procedures to minimize the risk of tenants being in a home that does not meet HQS. PJs must also establish procedures for conducting physical inspections within 120 days following the end of the December 31, 2020 waiver period.
Waiving annual HQS re-inspections scheduled to occur between April 10 and December 31 2020. Within 120 days of the end of the waiver period, a PJ must physically inspect units that would have been subject to HQS inspections during the waiver period.
Allowing a PJ to obtain a written statement of the amount of a household’s anticipated annual income and household size for households experiencing financial hardship. A PJ must ensure that a household’s self-certification indicates how a tenant’s financial situation has changed, (i.e., job loss or reduced wages). Emergency tax relief (commonly referred to as stimulus payment) is not counted. This waiver is in effect through December 31, 2020.
“Suspensions and Waivers to Facilitate Use of HOME-Assisted Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) for Emergency and Short-term Assistance in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic” is at: https://bit.ly/2KbKb6X
More information about the HOME program is on page 5-5 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.