The National Housing Law Project (NHLP) and NLIHC sent a letter to HUD Secretary Ben Carson on April 21 urging HUD to take additional steps to protect tenants and maximize existing resources to house as many families as possible during the coronavirus pandemic. Responding to the Office of Public and Indian Housing’s (PIH’s) waiver notice (Notice PIH 2020-05) on April 10 (see Memo, 4/13), the letter outlines key policies necessary to protect residents’ health and safety. Because waivers are discretionary, a public housing agency (PHA) may choose not to use any of the waivers or to use only a few, leaving residents at risk of eviction or termination of subsidies.
NHLP and NLIHC write that HUD should issue policy directives to PHAs, owners of private Housing Choice Voucher-assisted properties, and owners of HUD-assisted multifamily properties in order to keep families housed and to lease up families as quickly as possible.
To keep families safely housed, HUD must:
- Implement a uniform interim recertification rule for all HUD housing programs that:
- States if rent is not paid when due for April and other months during and for a reasonable period after the emergency, PHAs and owners should presume that the cause is a reduction in income and begin the income recertification process;
- Allows tenants to self-certify their change in income using a variety of methods; and
- Requires PHAs to apply any decrease in rent due to loss of income to the month following the change in income, retroactively if necessary.
- Direct PHAs and owners to establish a minimum rent of $0.
- Implement a uniform protocol to address emergency inspections for life-threatening conditions.
- Halt most conversions, such as Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), demolitions/dispositions, and owner opt-outs of Section 8 Multifamily HAP contracts, due to shelter-in-place orders that preclude resident participation activities.
- Require PHAs and owners to prohibit subsidy terminations due to a family’s extended absence from the unit.
To help people obtain housing during the coronavirus pandemic, HUD should:
- Require PHAs and owners to waive space standards, such as subsidy standards for the Housing Choice Voucher program that limit the number of people allowed to live in a family’s unit;
- Require PHAs and owners to lift tenant screening requirements for characteristics such as criminal and credit history when adding members to a household; and
- Automatically toll (extend) the search period for all vouchers.
The letter is at: https://bit.ly/2Ksf4nP
More information about public housing is on page 4-30 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.
More information about Housing Choice Vouchers is on page 4-1 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.
More information about the Project-Based Rental Assistance program is on page 4-61 of NLIHC’s 2020 Advocates’ Guide.