HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) posted COVID-19 FAQs for Public Housing Agencies Version 4 on May 29. This version of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) updates 12 earlier FAQs and adds 60 new FAQs, including seven new questions about the CARES Act Eviction Moratorium; 22 in the category of Operational Concerns, 29 under Eligible Activities; and two under Resident Health. This article highlights updated and new FAQs likely to be of interest to residents and advocates.
Under the category of “Eviction Moratorium,” EM14 and EM15 (page 9) represent a major improvement from earlier language in Version 3 wrongly suggesting that not all units in a property assisted with the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) were subject to the CARES Act eviction moratorium. The National Housing Law Project and NLIHC sent a letter to HUD Secretary Carson on April 30 urging HUD to revise this guidance (see Memo 5/4). The letter also applied to guidance issued by HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs on April 16 (Q&A #7 on page 10).
EM14 now correctly states that properties with LIHTC-financed units are subject to the CARES Act eviction moratorium, and EM15 states that the CARES Act eviction moratorium applies to tenants in LIHTC properties (not only to tenants in LIHTC-assisted units). That moratorium prohibits evictions, fees, and penalties related to non-payment of rent during the 120-day period beginning on March 27, and it prohibits landlords from filing for eviction before providing tenants a 30-day notice that cannot be provided before July 25 (see Memo, 4/13).
EM8 (page 8) states that because fees related to nonpayment of rent cannot be charged, if utilities are included in the lease agreement as part of rent, then fees for unpaid utilities cannot be charged and cannot accrue during the moratorium. Fees not related to rent may be charged during the moratorium.
EM16 (page 10) states that for any unpaid rent after the moratorium has ended, a family can repay unpaid rent in a lump sum to avoid eviction. If a family cannot make a lump sum payment, a public housing agency (PHA) has the discretion of setting up a repayment agreement. If a PHA decides to have a repayment agreement with a household, the PHA should follow guidance in Section 16 of Notice PIH 2018-18.
EM17 (page 10) indicates that if a landlord issues a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) household an eviction notice for nonpayment of rent during the moratorium, the household should reach out to a local legal aid organization or the PHA as soon as possible. PHAs should remind participating HCV landlords of the legal restrictions on evictions for nonpayment of rent.
OC38 (page 22) updates an earlier FAQ. In addition to restricting visitors to a senior high-rise, the updated FAQ adds that PHAs may require people to wear face coverings in common areas or the office.
OC45 (page 25) allows the use of Remote Video Inspection (RVI) to meet inspection requirements for the HCV and Public Housing programs. RVI is a regular Housing Quality Standards (HQS)/public housing inspection performed remotely with the PHA HQS/PH inspector remotely directing the inspection. PIH will issue additional guidance on best practices for PHAs. PIH envisions that once there is more experience with RVI, it could be used by PHAs in the future and not just during the pandemic.
OC47-OC51 (pages 25-26) address a variety of issues related to the Moving to Work (MTW) Demonstration.
OC54 (page 27) indicates that a PHA can accept a copy of an applicant’s Social Security card at lease up.
OC55 (page 27) acknowledges that while some applicants might have trouble obtaining identifying documents such as Social Security numbers or birth certificates, a PHA cannot allow households to move in and verify documents later. The FAQ states that PIH will consider adjusting this policy. OC56 (page 28) likewise does not permit PHAs to allow an applicant to self-certify income when applying for public housing or voucher assistance. Waiver PH/HCV-3 in Notice PIH 2020-05 does allow self-certifications for annual income verification for households already assisted. These two FAQs seem to contradict language in Notice PIH 2020-05 that encourages PHAs to continue critical operations, including processing Requests for Tenancy Approvals (RFTAs), so families can be approved to move into a unit.
OC60 (page 28) clarifies that a PHA or owner may continue to provide the deduction for childcare expenses if a parent, guardian, or caretaker is unemployed due to the pandemic. HUD regulations permit a childcare expense to be deducted from income calculations to enable a family member to seek employment, be employed, or further their education. Being furloughed or receiving unemployment benefits as a result of coronavirus does not alone show that the family is not seeking employment.
COVID-19 FAQs for Public Housing Agencies, Version 4 is at: https://bit.ly/3eHnGE8
More about public housing is on page 4-30 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.
More about housing choice vouchers is on page 4-1 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.