HUD PIH Provides Disaster Waivers for Public Housing and Voucher Programs

HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) published a notice in the Federal Register on January 5 providing public housing agencies (PHAs) in Presidentially Declared Disasters (PDDs) areas expedited review of requests for waivers of certain regulations pertaining to public housing and vouchers. The provisions apply to calendar years 2022 and 2023. Seventeen specific potential waivers are described; this Memo article highlights seven potential waivers. In addition, a PHA may request a waiver not listed in the notice if it demonstrates a need for one to assist in disaster relief and recovery.

Unless otherwise indicated, all approved waivers apply for a period of 12 months from the date of PIH approval. However, if a PHA needs regulatory relief for a longer period, it must submit documentation of good cause and PIH may consider extending the waiver. Requests for waivers must be submitted to PIH no later than 120 days following the date of the disaster declaration. PIH stresses that essential program requirements such as property inspections or income verification will not be granted waivers in their entirety, although modifications may be considered. Similarly, the voucher program’s Housing Quality Standards (HQS) cannot be waived; however, PIH can consider variations to the acceptability criteria to HQS.

Operating Subsidy for Vacant Public Housing Units. A PHA is eligible to receive operating subsidy for vacant public housing units that are vacant due to a federally declared, state declared, or other declared disaster, subject to prior PIH approval, on a project-by-project basis.

Public Notice of Voucher Waiting List. Instead of the requirement to provide public notice in a local newspaper that a PHA is opening its voucher waiting list, a PHA may provide notice via its website, at any of its offices, and/or in a voice mail message. PHAs must still provide public notice in minority media. PHAs are reminded to consider accessibility issues. For example, public notice at PHA offices might not be accessible for people with mobility disabilities, and voice mail messages might not serve people with hearing impairments or with limited English proficiency.

Tenant Selection Policies. A PHA may seek temporary revisions to its public housing or voucher tenant selection policies to address circumstances unique to disaster relief and recovery efforts, provided the PHA identifies the temporary revisions and documents that its Board of Commissioners or an authorized PHA official supports the waiver request, rather than going through the more formal processes. However, any waiver request cannot entail a significant amendment or modification to the PHA Plan or Moving to Work (MTW) Plan.

Exception Payment Standard. PIH will consider exception payment standards up to 150% of the area’s Fair Market Rent (FMR). The payment standard is the amount of assistance represented by the voucher, the amount a household offers to a landlord to help meet the cost of the market rent of a unit above the amount a household pays at 30% of its adjusted income. Regulations allow PHAs to establish their own payment standard between 90% and 110% of FMR. To seek a payment standard greater than 110%, a PHA normally has to provide data about the local rental market. However, in a disaster, typical data sources do not accurately reflect changed market conditions. In disaster contexts, PIH considers the most recently available data prior to the disaster and estimates the number of households seeking housing in the wake of the disaster to arrive at an emergency exception payment standard amount.

Housing Quality Standards Space Requirements. With written consent of a household, PIH will waive the requirement that a voucher-assisted unit have at least one bedroom or living/sleeping room for each two people in a household. PIH will not waive reasonable accommodation requirements for households with a person who has a disability.

Total Development Cost Limit. To enable PHAs to use public housing Capital Funds for repairs and construction, PIH may consider waiving the 110% cap on total development cost (TDC) and housing cost limits.

Replacement Housing Factor (RHF). PIH may consider allowing unexpended Capital Fund Replacement Housing Factor Grants to be used for public housing modernization instead of limiting RHF to developing or acquiring public housing. RHF grants are Capital Fund Grants awarded to PHAs that have demolished or sold public housing units.

The January 5 Federal Register notice is at:

More information about public housing is on page 4-30 of NLIHC’s 2021 Advocates’ Guide.

More information about vouchers is on page 4-1 of NLIHC’s 2021 Advocates’ Guide.

Information about disaster housing programs is on page 6-47 of NLIHC’s 2021 Advocates’ Guide.