Tenant Protection Vouchers for foster youth

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has guidance regarding Tenant Protection Vouchers for foster youth.  Tenant Protection Vouchers are now available for Family Reunification Program-eligible foster youth in communities that do not administer Family Reunification Programs.  To be eligible, a Public Housing Authority (PHA) must: administer the Housing Choice Voucher program, not administer the Family Reunification Program, have a partnership with a public child welfare agency, accept Family Reunification Program –eligible your referrals, determine eligibility and update their administrative plan.  The public child welfare agency must provide supportive services.

Eligible youth must be at least 18 years of age and not more than 24 years of age, left foster care or will leave foster case within 90 days, and are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

These vouchers sunset when the youth leaves the program.  If a youth does not use the voucher, the PHA must notify HUD and HUD will reduce the PHA’s housing choice voucher assistance to account for the removal of the voucher.  These vouchers cannot be project based.   PHAs may admit youth to the program who are not on the waiting list or without consideration of waiting list position.  These vouchers provide assistance for a maximum of 36 months.  (PIH Notice 2019-20, July 26, 2019.)

Utility Rate Reduction Incentive in Public Housing

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has guidance regarding use and eligibility of the Rate Reduction Incentive (RRI).  The RRI is a financial incentive for Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to pursue special and significant efforts beyond what is required by statute or regulation to reduce their utility rate.  PHAs that take an eligible action will be eligible to retain one-half of the annual savings realized from their actions.  The lower rate cannot be result of factor that do not require PHA action such as market changes, rate changes for all customers or consuming energy at a different time of day.

Eligible activities include special rate negotiated by and for the PHA, wellhead purchase of natural gas, power purchase agreement using a third-party energy supplier, energy efficiency investments that lead to lower utility rates, investments to allow for fuel switching capability in order to participate in an interruptible utility rate, commodity purchases of regulated utilities in a deregulated market that result in a lower utility rate, active commodity trading and on-site renewable energy.

Activities ineligible to receive RRI include energy investments that lower utility consumption but not the rate, selecting the best available utility rate, combining or removing meters to prohibit individual tenant metering, and fuel switching to obtain a better rate when new equipment is not required.  (PIH Notice 2019-24, September 3, 2019.)

Emergency call systems in public housing

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued guidance on emergency call systems in public housing.  There is no requirement to install emergency call systems in public housing.  HUD does not prescribe the type of emergency call system a public housing authority should use if there is a system present or installed.

However, emergency call systems may be required to be installed and operable as reasonable accommodations, modification or auxiliary aids pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.

If a public housing authority has call-for-aid pull cords, wireless communication notification systems or other similar emergency call systems in a public housing property, the systems must function as intended, are subject to Real Estate Inspection Center (REAC) inspection protocols and must be tested. Housing Authorities are not required to replace older call systems with wireless or electronic communication technology.  However, when the public housing authority uses call-for-aid pull cords, REAC inspectors must verify the system functions as intended and the cords must be accessible.  (PIH Notice 2019-25, October 11, 2019.)

Housing and Disability Advocacy Program guidance

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued updated program guidance regarding the Housing and Disability Advocacy Program (HDAP).  HDAP offers funding to county agencies or tribal governments to assist homeless disabled individuals with applying for disability benefits programs while providing housing assistance.  39 counties currently have HDAP programs.  HDAP requires grantees to offer outreach, case management, advocacy and housing assistance concurrently.

Assistance should be provided until disability benefits are granted and the participant is stabilized in permanent housing. A dollar-for-dollar grantee match is also required.

There are several changes to the program because of legislation in 2019.  These changes include: 1) Funding is now available for federally recognized tribal governments; 2) Priority for assistance is for chronically homeless individuals or homeless persons who rely most heavily on government-funded services; 3) Programs can consider providing housing assistance after disability benefits are granted until housing placement is stable and affordable; 4) Case management staff must assist in developing a transition plan for housing support when disability benefits are granted or denied.

HDAP continues its principles of housing first, collaboration among programs and prioritizing assistance is for chronically homeless individuals or homeless persons who rely most heavily on government-funded services.  Providing services on first-come, first-served basis or by most likely to find housing is improper.

Required program components continue to be outreach, case management, benefits advocacy and housing assistance.  Limiting outreach to General Assistance/General Relief applicants or recipients is insufficient.

Additional program components include transition planning, workforce development for participants not likely to be eligible for disability benefits, interim assistance reimbursement, and data gathering.  (ACL 19-104, November 1, 2019.)

Enhanced voucher minimum rent calculation for families whose income increases after a significant decrease

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued guidance regarding enhanced voucher minimum rent calculation for families whose income increases after a significant decrease.  This guidance supersedes PIH Notice 2001-41.

Tenants are eligible for enhanced vouchers when there is prepayment of a mortgage on a HUD-subsidized property, voluntary termination of an insurance contract for a HUD-subsidized property, termination of a project-based Section 8 contract or preservation of affordable housing under the Flexible Subsidy program.  Enhanced vouchers have a higher payment standard and have a minimum rent of at least the amount the family was paying at the time of the eligibility event.

If a family with an enhanced voucher has a decrease in income of at least 15% from the family income on the date of the eligibility event, the rent calculation changes to the percentage of income that the family was paying for rent at the time of the eligibility event.

If the family’s income subsequently increases to an amount where minimum rent established by a percentage of family income is more than the original rent, the family’s enhanced voucher minimum rent will revert to the original minimum rent (that is the minimum rent before the family’s income decreased).

Housing authorities must apply this change at the earlier of the families first regular reexamination following the issuance date of this notice, or an interim reexamination as a result of increase in family income.  This change to the family’s rental share is applied prospectively only.  (PIH Notice 2019-12, May 23, 2019.)