HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) issued Notice PIH 2024-04 on January 31. The Notice provides guidance to public housing agencies (PHAs) regarding the use of various funds for activities that enable them to comply with federal requirements for providing meaningful access to people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). The guidance in the Notice consolidates and clarifies information regarding the use of funds available in the Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) programs for LEP-related activities.
Title VI of the “Civil Rights Act of 1964” requires all recipients and subrecipients of federal financial assistance to take reasonable steps to ensure that people with Limited English Proficiency have meaningful access to a recipient’s programs or activities, including by ensuring meaningful access to information, benefits, services, and other vital aspects of a recipient’s programs or activities. Failure may constitute a violation of Title VI’s prohibition of discrimination against people based on “national origin” (one of Title VI’s seven “protected classes”). Also, Executive Order 13166, “Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency” (issued in 2000), requires federal agencies and recipients of federal financial assistance to provide meaningful access to all programs and services. Finally, HUD released a notice in the Federal Register on January 22, 2007, providing guidance regarding LEP compliance for HUD-funded recipients.
LEP Compliance Requirements
Notice PIH 2024-04 recommends that PHAs conduct a four-factor analysis, develop a Language Access Plan, and provide language access assistance. A four-factor analysis involves reviewing:
- The number or proportion of LEP people served or eligible in a PHA’s service population.
- The frequency of LEP people interacting with a PHA’s programs.
- The nature and importance of a given program, activity, or service.
- The cost of LEP activities compared to available resources. Would undertaking an LEP activity be a material burden on a PHA?
After conducting a four-factor analysis, the Notice suggests a PHA develop a Language Access Plan for meeting the needs of its LEP population. The Notice offers 10 elements to consider when designing a plan, as well as five standards to consider regarding the content of a Language Access Plan. HUD’s own 25-page Language Access Plan for 2021-2026 might be a useful guide.
After developing a Language Access Plan, a PHA should implement it by providing language assistance services to the LEP population it serves. Some language assistance services PHAs can provide include oral interpretation, bilingual staff, telephone service line interpretation, written translation services, notices of availability of LEP services, or referrals to community liaisons proficient in the relevant language.
Using PIH Program Funds
For public housing, PHAs may use their Operating Fund (for example, to fund an eviction proceeding). (NLIHC notes that language assistance pertaining to evictions is very important but wonders whether this example indicates the likelihood of excessive PHA eviction actions.) For an eviction, a PHA can use some of its Operating Fund to provide appropriately translated notices and in-person interpretation. PHAs may also use up to 20% of their Capital Fund for any use allowed by the Operating Fund. In addition, PHAs may use up to 10% of their Capital Fund for Management Improvement activities, such as training their staff to better serve LEP people and upgrading their online systems. PHAs may use HCV Administrative Fees or their unrestricted net position (UNP) to address LEP requirements for HCV and Project-Based Voucher (PBV) program activities. The Notice provides several examples.
Read Notice PIH 2024-04 at: http://tinyurl.com/mrh24r7d
Read Executive Order 13166 at: http://tinyurl.com/mpzxwvjy
Read “Final Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients Regarding Title VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited English Proficient Persons” at: http://tinyurl.com/bdzkvcud
Read HUD’s own Language Access Plan 2021-2026 at: http://tinyurl.com/4kn7vxtc
More information about the public housing program is available on page 4-32 of NLIHC’s 2023 Advocates’ Guide.
More information about the Housing Choice Voucher program is available on page 4-1 of NLIHC’s 2023 Advocates’ Guide.
More information about the PBV program is available on page 4-9 of NLIHC’s 2023 Advocates’ Guide.