HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs (Multifamily) issued Notice H 2013-21, allowing owners of HUD-assisted private properties to voluntarily adopt admission preferences for homeless families. In the past, Multifamily only allowed admissions preferences explicitly listed in the regulations, which include single homeless individuals. HUD now interprets “silence” in the existing rule to allow owners to adopt preferences for homeless families. Owners must submit a request for and obtain HUD Field Office approval for an admission preference not explicitly listed in the existing regulations.The regulations, at 24 CFR 5.655(c)(1)-(c)(5), currently list preferences for: people who reside in or work in approved geographic areas; working families; people with disabilities; victims of domestic violence; and single people who are disabled, who can have a preference before other single people who are elderly, displaced, or homeless. Notice H 2013-21, issued on July 25, provides guidance for owners regarding implementing an admissions preference for homeless families. First, owners may establish a definition of homeless that differs from that in the regulations implementing the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009 (HEARTH Act). Owners may have a more narrow definition specific to the homeless needs in their communities, or owners may use a broader definition in order to serve more of the population. However, alternative definitions of homeless must be approved by the HUD Field Office.The notice lists nine factors owners should consider when adopting an admissions preference for homeless families. For example:
- Owners must inform all applicants about available preferences and give all applicants an opportunity to show that they qualify, including applicants already on a waiting list.
- All preferences must be in the Tenant Selection Plan.
- Owners may remove an owner-adopted preference at any time without HUD approval.
- Owners may have a preference for those referred by a partnering homeless service organization.
- Owners may require an applicant to verify that they qualify for a homeless preference, or owners may rely on verification from partnering homeless service organizations.
- Owners must ensure that a preference does not have the purpose or effect of excluding others on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status, or that the preference would create or perpetuate segregation.