HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs (Multifamily), which oversees contracts with private owners of HUD-assisted properties, made more updates to its “Questions and Answers for Office of Multifamily Housing Stakeholders: Coronavirus (COVID-19)” (see Memo 3/30) on April 2. A total of 21 questions/answers were added and 10 were updated. While many address such topics as construction issues, on-site inspections, and environmental reviews, this article will highlight two categories of changes: those related to income recertifications and those related to the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD).
Annual and Interim Income Recertifications
In the “Policy and Operations” category, “Asset Management” section, Q7 (starting on page 7) is substantially modified. The question is, “Will impacted residents still have to complete annual recertification and interim certification for lost income?” HUD elaborates significantly on this topic in the April 2 update.
HUD considers the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) recommendations for controlling the spread of the coronavirus as well as shelter-in-place and similar orders as an “extenuating circumstance” that might impede owners and tenants from complying with interim and annual income recertification requirements. Therefore, owners should follow the extenuating circumstance instructions provided in the April 2 update as well as HUD Handbook 4350.3, REV-1.
HUD recommends an owner begin, and if possible complete, recertification actions within 90 days of being advised of the extenuating circumstance. When an extenuating circumstance is present, there is no change to a tenant’s recertification anniversary date. The Total Tenant Payment/Tenant Rent and the assistance payment are effective retroactively to the recertification anniversary date.
HUD will allow tenants that may have lost income due to coronavirus to self-certify for annual or interim recertifications. Self-certification can be used if the information cannot be verified by another acceptable verification method. Self-certification can be provided to the owner by such means such as mail or email, and the owner may consider collecting the original documents from the household at a later date.
HUD will allow alternate signatures (e.g. copies or images of signatures sent by email, fax, or other electronic means) as long as original (“wet”) signatures are obtained at a later date. Tenants can provide the owner with required documentation for the recertification by email or other electronic delivery at the owner’s discretion.
Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD)
In the “Recapitalization and Rental Assistance Demonstration” section there is a new question, Q26 (starting on page 15): “How should PHAs communicate with residents about the RAD conversion process, respond to resident questions, and solicit feedback when in-person resident meetings are not possible due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak?”
HUD states that PHAs that continue with public meetings should follow the latest CDC, state, or local health department guidance relative to holding public meetings. It is still critical, however, for PHAs and property owners to keep residents informed about any changes to their housing, their rights, and the timing of key events related to the RAD conversion and for residents to have the opportunity to provide comments as required at different stages of a RAD conversion.
In lieu of community meetings held in common areas, PHAs and owners may hold meetings remotely using videoconferencing or teleconferencing technology. In selecting among alternative meeting methodologies, PHAs and owners should be attentive to the nature of technology that residents are likely to have in their homes. PHAs and owners must ensure they can:
- Accept and respond to answers to questions submitted during the meeting;
- Maintain an attendance log in order to track whether residents are able to participate successfully;
- Accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities or with limited English proficiency (LEP) through the meeting format. In selecting the host technology, PHAs must ensure they can comply with Section 504 of the Americans with Disability Act; and
- Provide residents with a follow-up notice after the meeting with a summary or reproduction of presented information and a means to ask additional questions related to the conversion.
HUD recognizes that effectively communicating during this period may take more time than previously, and PHAs and owners may conclude that additional meetings are necessary to ensure all residents are reached.
Beyond the required resident meeting and comment period, HUD recommends that PHAs and owners develop an alternative communication plan that is sustainable for at least eight weeks or more and that achieves the goals of providing residents relevant information about the RAD conversion. PHAs may develop a process that includes various forms of alternative communication methods so that all residents can receive information and participate in the process regardless of their individual circumstances. HUD provides a list of suggested methods for sharing information with residents:
- Teleconference calls in the place of in-person meetings, ensuring that residents have enough prior notice and receive clear directions (particularly those with limited technological access/abilities).
- Flyers/notices to residents at each unit with updates about how information can be obtained regarding the RAD process.
- Notices posted in common areas of the property.
- Letter updates in resident mailboxes.
- Text and/or email updates to residents.
- A sign-up sheet for residents to meet one-on-one with office staff or by phone.
- Online materials (video or other) available to all residents.
- A survey for residents to gather information from them about their questions, experience, and preferences.
- Contact information (phone and email) for PHA staff provided to all residents should they have questions.
“Questions and Answers for Office of Multifamily Housing Stakeholders: Coronavirus (COVID-19)” is at: https://bit.ly/2URRghW
More information about project-based housing is on page 4-46 of NLIHC’s 2019 Advocates’ Guide.