HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) issued Notice PIH 2021-16, updating guidance on the use of the $25 per occupied unit Tenant Participation Fund. This notice supersedes Notice PIH 2013-21. Of the $25 per occupied unit provided by a public housing agency’s (PHA’s) Operating Fund Grant, a minimum of $15 per occupied unit each year must be provided to duly elected Resident Councils at each public housing development and/or jurisdiction-wide councils to carry out tenant participation activities. The $10 per unit balance must be used by a PHA to pay carrying out activities under 24 CFR 964, subpart B, the resident participation regulations.
The updated notice echoes the 2013 version, but in general has more details.
Roles of PHAs and Resident Councils
Section 4 of the Notice discusses the roles of PHAs and Resident Councils (RCs). Unchanged is guidance stating that PHAs may need to provide or encourage RCs to seek technical assistance in administration, budgeting, and financial reporting to comply with HUD requirements for Tenant Participation (TP) funds and an RC’s written agreement with a PHA. A PHA may use its portion of the TP funds to provide technical assistance and training in those areas. Also unchanged is that the guidance that states RCs and their leadership should play an active role in determining how TP funds will be used to improve the quality of life for public housing residents. Each RC has the ability to decide which activities they will pursue to use TP funds.
Written Agreements between PHAs and RCs
While the previous guidance required PHAs and RCs to enter into written agreements, Notice PIH 2021-16 has an entire section nearly one-page long. PIH encourages PHAs and RCs to develop agreements that establish a collaborative partnership, provide flexibility, and support RC leaders’ autonomy. The notice provides four minimum provisions that must be in a written agreement. It also has eight recommended best practices, for instance encouraging PHAs to provide a written explanation to an RC for any requested use of TP funds the PHA denies, describing why the request to use failed to meet established evaluation criteria. In a separate section, the notice provides 11 suggested evaluation questions similar to those in the 2013 version.
Section 5 is an entirely new section discussing financial management of TP funds. Section 5.A. adds that a PHA may fund an RC above the $15 minimum. Also, the minimum amount of $15 to be provided to an RC may be adjusted to reflect an Operating Fund Grant proration rate each year. PIH reminds PHAs that Operating Funds, which include TP funds, must be spent by the cancellation date defined by the appropriations act for that fiscal year. For example, Operating Funds after 2017 cancel in seven years.
PIH encourages PHAs to pay an RC the entire $15 per unit by the end of a calendar year. Best practices limit the amount of time between distribution of funds and expenditure by an RC, such as quarterly disbursements. Any TP funds remaining in RC-controlled accounts at the end of a calendar may remain in those accounts for subsequent allowable RC expenses. To the extent $15 per unit is not expended by a PHA because an RC did not use all of its available funds in a calendar year, there is no requirement for the PHA to pay the RC any remaining balance of the $15 per unit the following calendar year.
If There is No Resident Council
Section 5. B. states if there is no duly elected RC, PHAs are encouraged to inform residents that TP funds are available and PHAs are encouraged to use up to $10 per unit to carry out tenant participation activities, including training and building resident capacity to establish and operate an RC. If a duly elected RC is formed during the funding year, a PHA must provide the RC with a minimum of $15 per unit to fund resident activities. These amounts must be available for this purpose for the entire funding year.
If there is interest by residents, a PHA may engage a jurisdiction-wide resident council or separate local RCs to implement local activities at developments that do not have an RC and may make available the TP funding allocated for that local development. In such a situation, if an RC is formed during the funding year, a PHA must provide the RC with the remaining balance of funds allocated for that local development.
At the end of a funding year, if a duly elected resident council has not been formed, a PHA may use the remaining TP amounts for resident participation activities for any eligible Operating Fund expense.
Increasing TF Funding at Other Developments
Section 5.C indicates that PHAs that do not expend TP funds at one public housing project may want to increase TP funding for an RC at another project. Additionally, an RC may transfer their TP funds to resident councils at other projects or to a jurisdiction-wide resident council. The guidance notes that the TP amounts referenced in the notice and in part 964 are minimums, not caps on the amount that can be spent on tenant participation activities because tenant participation is an otherwise eligible use of Operating Funds.
Using TP Funds in Mixed-Income Communities
As was allowed in 2013, public housing residents in mixed-income communities are eligible to use TP funds. The amount of TP funds used for eligible activities should be in proportion to the number of public housing residents living in the development. TP funds along with other sources of funds may be used to support resident participation and self-sufficiency activities benefitting all of a development’s residents.
Allowable and Unallowable Expenses
Section 6 discusses allowable expenses in a very general way. The 2013 Notice included a non-comprehensive list of examples of allowable uses. It remains to be seen whether the lack of examples offers more greater flexibility for RCs to propose uses of TP funds or unduly enables PHAs to unreasonably deny proposed RC uses. The unallowable uses remain the same: purchase of alcoholic beverages, entertainment (such as trips to theme parks, sports events, parties), and organized fundraising costs.
Notice PIH 2021-16 is at: https://bit.ly/33YLsZ4
NLIHC’s outline of key features of the Part 964 Resident Participation Regulations (prior to Notice 2021-16) is at https://bit.ly/3hBOxGe and on NLIHC’s public housing webpage at: https://bit.ly/3ovp1UI
More about resident participation is on page 2-52 of NLIHC’s 2021 Advocates’ Guide.