HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) posted an Eviction Prevention and Stability Toolkit on July 1. While the toolkit consists of eight attachments, the most important are the first four: 1) “PHA Guide to Preventing Homelessness After the Eviction Moratorium Expires;” 2) “Information and Resources for Tenants during COVID-19;” 3) “Preventing Evictions: Information for HCV Landlords;” and 4) “Repayment Agreement Guidance.” PIH “strongly encourages” public housing agencies (PHAs) and private owners participating in the Housing Choice Voucher program to keep as many households stably housed as possible as the CARES Act moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent ends on July 24 (see Memo, 4/13).
Attachment 1, “PHA Guide to Preventing Homelessness After the Eviction Moratorium Expires,” discusses four actions PHAs can take to prevent homelessness after the eviction moratorium ends, as well as best practices for each action. One action “strongly encouraged” by PIH is for PHAs and owners to enter into repayment agreements for any unpaid rent if a household cannot pay rent accumulated during the eviction moratorium in one lump sum. Advocates have urged PIH to implement a uniform income recertification rule. PIH urges repayment plans to have reasonable payments spread over time. For public housing, repayment agreement guidance is listed in Section 16 of Notice PIH 2018-18 and Question EM16 of PIH’s latest FAQ. For the voucher program, PHAs could encourage owners to enter into repayment agreements for unpaid rent and PHAs should provide landlords with a sample repayment agreement. PHAs could also use CARES Act Administrative fees (see Memo, 5/4) as an incentive to owners to not evict residents; to instead work with a family (e.g., by entering into a repayment agreement with the family) and/or to work with the PHA (e.g., to provide time for the PHA to update its interim reexamination policy or to allow for retroactive interim reexaminations).
One “best practice” is to ensure that all relevant PHA staff are aware that repayment agreements are an option and that minimum rent hardship exemptions are mandatory. PHAs can also encourage staff to send information about repayment agreements and rent hardship policies to residents and discuss them with residents. Advocates recommended both of these actions.
Another action that PIH “strongly encourages” is for PHAs to have interim income reexamination policies that allow retroactive adjustments to rent when a household experiences reduced or lost income due to of the pandemic (as suggested by advocates). This could reduce hardship for households who were eligible for a rent reduction but were not aware that they could trigger an interim income recertification, or who did not report their income loss promptly due to extenuating circumstances of the pandemic. PIH reminds PHAs that the CARES Act provided PHAs additional funding to cover operating deficits.
One best practices offered is also recommended by advocates: to make the effective date of an interim income reexamination retroactive to the first of the month following the date of the actual decrease in income as opposed to the first of the month following the date the family reported the change in income or when the interim reexamination was conducted. Advocates urged PIH to require this effective date provision.
As a third action, PIH encourages PHAs to determine which families are behind on rent and to engage them through direct outreach, keeping in mind the need to effectively communicate with people who have limited English proficiency or a disability. PIH reminds PHAs that they can use their extra CARES Act funds to hire an eviction prevention coordinator.
The fourth action refers to a PHA’s obligation to grant a household an exemption to the minimum rent (a maximum of $50) due to financial hardship. If a household would be evicted because they are unable to pay the minimum rent, a financial hardship exemption must be granted. Advocates have urged PIH to direct PHAs and owners to establish a minimum rent of $0 during the pandemic and to inform residents of the right to a financial hardship exemption.
Attachment 2, “Information and Resources for Tenants during COVID-19,” explains the impending end of the CARES Act eviction moratorium on July 24, urges residents to ask their PHA to recertify their income if they experience reduced or lost income and to grant retroactive rent adjustments (if their PHA allows them), ask for a minimum rent hardship exemption, and to enter into a repayment agreement (which is at the discretion of the PHA or voucher landlord). The document has more than one page devoted to protections for people experiencing domestic or sexual violence, something for which the National Housing Law Project advocated.
Attachment 3, “Preventing Evictions: Information for HCV Landlords,” is a one-page document. Attachment 4, “Repayment Agreement Guidance,” encourages PHAs and owners to enter into repayment agreements with residents unable to pay rents accumulated during the eviction moratorium. Such agreements should enable households to make “reasonable” payments spread out over time. For public housing, the attachment refers to Section 16 of Notice PIH 2018-18, which among other features, suggests that the agreement limit payments of current rent and back rent not be greater than 40% of adjusted household income (as recommended by advocates). PIH has no existing guidance for voucher owners, but the attachment encourages them to consult with the PHA to establish reasonable terms.
Attachments 5, 6, and 7 are sample repayment agreements from Boston, Harris County, Texas (which includes Houston), and Plattsburgh, New York. Attachment 8 is a Resident (Coronavirus) Needs Assessment Survey.
The Eviction Prevention and Stability Toolkit is available at: https://bit.ly/3giKGtQ
More information about the Public Housing program is on page 4-30 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.
More information about Housing Choice Voucher program is on page 4-1 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.