Funding and rules changes for CDSS housing program

The Budget Act of 2021 appropriated $795 million for CDSS housing programs and made changes to program rules.

The CalWORKs Housing Support Program is intended to foster housing stability for families experiencing homelessness in the CalWORKs program.  Housing Support Program funds must be used to support projects that follow evidence-based housing interventions, including rapid rehousing.  All state-funded housing program must follow the core components of Housing First.  The Budget Act amended the program to expand eligibility to families at risk of homelessness, including families who have not yet received an eviction notice.

The Bringing Families Home Program provides housing related services to families receiving child welfare services, increase family reunification, and prevent foster care placements.  Funds can be used for evidence-based housing interventions including rapid rehousing, supportive housing and/or subsidies to make rental housing affordable.  The Budget Act amended the program to expand eligibility to families where the living situation cannot accommodate the child or multiple children in the home, and that families at risk of homelessness can include families who have not yet received an eviction notice.  The Budget Act also exempts counties and tribes from the dollar-for-dollar match requirements for one-time funds awarded between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2024.

The Housing and Disability Advocacy Program provides outreach, case management, disability benefits advocacy, and housing assistance.  The Budget Act amended the program to exempt counties and tribes from the dollar-for-dollar match requirements for one-time funds awarded between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2024, that individuals at risk of homelessness can include families who have not yet received an eviction notice, and that the interim assistance reimbursement requirement is waived through June 30, 2024.

The Home Safe Program provides housing-related assistance using evidence-based practices for homeless assistance and prevention for persons involved in Adult Protective Services. The Budget Act amended the program to include that persons at risk of homelessness can include families who have not yet received an eviction notice, that persons in the process of Adult Protective Services intake and individuals served through a tribal social services agency who appeal to be eligible for Adult Protective Services, and that counties and tribes from the dollar-for-dollar match requirements for one-time funds awarded between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2024.

The Budget Act appropriated an additional $150 million to continue Project Roomkey.  (ACWDL July 19, 2021.)

VAWA for Rural Development tenants

The United States Department of Agriculture has issued guidance regarding the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  This guidance applies to Section 515 Rural Rental Housing, Section 514/516 Farm Labor Housing, Section 538 Guaranteed Rural Rental Housing, and Section 533 Housing Preservation Grant programs.

VAWA protects domestic violence victims from being denied admission to, denied assistance under, termination from participation, or eviction from covered housing programs if the applicant or tenant otherwise qualifies for admission, assistance, participation, or occupancy.

Criminal activity directly related to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking cannot be cause for termination of assistance, tenancy or occupancy rights of the victim.

Borrowers should allow extended absences per current policy including for the benefit of domestic violence survivors.

Borrowers must respond and consider allowing tenants to transfer another Rural Development unit if they reasonably believe they are facing an actual and imminent threat of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  Rural Development will issue a letter stating the tenant may get priority placement in an available Rural Development unit.  Requests to transfer to an external unit when a Rural Development unit is not available must also be urgently handled.

Borrowers must distribute the HUD-5380 Notice of Occupancy Rights, and HUD-5382 Certification of Domestic Violence form to all applicants and tenants when an individual is denied residency, when assigned a unit, and with any notice of eviction or termination of assistance.

Borrowers should prioritize victims’ requests and process emergency transfers and lease bifurcations as quickly as possible.  This includes accepting verbal statements, or accepting self-certification of the domestic violence incidents.  Evictions, lease bifurcations, and terminations of assistance against victims because of an actual and imminent threat should only be used when there is no other action to reduce the threat.  When processing bifurcation, Borrowers should consider allowing more time to demonstrate eligibility for other programs.

Borrowers should consider adopting a preference for admission and make every effort to accept admission applications from victims at any time, even when the waiting list is closed.

Technology should be used to allow survivors to safely testify at hearings when their housing subsidy is at issue.  (United States Department of Agriculture Unnumbered Letter, November 23, 2020.)

COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program in the Continued Assistance Act makes available $25 billion to assistant households that are unable to pay rent and utilities because of COVID-19.  Payments will be made directly to states, U.S. Territories, local governments with more than 200,000 residents, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and Indian Tribes.  Not less than 90 percent of awarded funds must be used for direct financial assistance.  The remaining funds are available for housing stability services.

An eligible household is a renter household in which at lease one or more individuals 1) qualify for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced financial hardship because or COVID-19, 2) demonstrates a risk of homelessness or housing instability, or 3) has a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median.

Eligible households that include an individual who has been unemployed for 90 days, and households with income at or below 50 percent of the area median are to be prioritized.

Eligible households may receive up to 12 months of assistance, plus an additional 3 months if the grantee determines the extra months are needed to ensure housing stability and grantee funds are available.

Payment of existing housing-related arrears that could result in eviction of an eligible household is prioritized.  Assistance must be provided to reduce an eligible household’s rental arrears before the household may receive assistance for future rent payments.  Once a household’s rental arrears are reduced, future assistance can be provided for only three months at a time.  Households can reapply for additional assistance at the end of the three-month period if needed and the overall time limit for assistance is not exceeded.

An application for rental assistance can be submitted to the grantee by either an eligible household or be a landlord on behalf of the household.  Funds will be paid directly to the landlords and utility service providers.  If a landlord does not want to participate, funds may be paid directly to the eligible household.  (Emergency Rental Assistance Program, United States Department of the Treasury.)

Project Roomkey and rehousing strategy

Project Roomkey is a statewide program to provide emergency, non-congregate shelter placements (hotel/motel) for people experiencing homelessness and are in need of isolation.

Project Roomkey funds must be used to offer supports starting from the point of outreach engagement through their stay in non-congregate shelter and until the participant is stabilized in permanent housing.  Project Roomkey programs must add or bolster rehousing assistance to their current service provision.

Local governments are encouraged to identify local, state and federal finding to leverage additional resources.

Rehousing assistance can include housing barrier removal, including credit repair or legal services, landlord encouragement and incentives, move-in and housing stabilization costs, rental assistance, assistance with higher level of care placements.

Funds can also be used for housing-related case management, housing navigation, and surge activities, which are coordinated efforts to quickly rehouse a group of people experiencing homelessness.  (ACWDL, November 18, 2020.)

COVID-19 extension of reverification of employment and appraisals for FHA Single Family loans

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has extended temporary changes to re-verification of employment and appraisal rules for FHA Single Family programs that were announced in Mortgagee Letter 2020-05, summarized here.  Until October 31, 2020, mortgagees do not need to re-verify employment within 10 days of the Note or within 10 days of loan disbursement if there is no loss of employment by the borrower.

Appraisers may do Exterior-only (viewing from the street) or Desktop-Only (relying on various documents and not viewing the property) appraisals for FHA Single Family loans.

There changes also apply to refinances and reverse mortgages.  (Mortgagee Letter 2020-28, August 28, 2020.)

COVID-19 Extension of FHA mortgage and eviction moratorium

FHA has extended until December 31, 2020 its directive that properties secured by FHA- insured Single Family mortgages are subject to a moratorium on foreclosure, announced in Mortgagee Letter 2020-04, summarized here. This is the third extension of this moratorium.  The moratorium applies to initiation of and completion of the foreclosure process.

Evictions of persons from properties secured by FHA- insured Single Family mortgages are suspended until December 31, 2020.

Deadlines for the first legal action and reasonable diligence timelines are extended by 90 days from the date of expiration of this moratorium.  (Mortgagee Letter 2020-27, August 27, 2020.)