Department of Housing and Urban Development News Briefs - December 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) needs to improve compliance and oversight of jurisdictions' fair housing plans, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. After reviewing 441 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME grantees' analyses of impediments (AIs), for which HUD has oversight responsibility, GAO found that 29 percent may be outdated and 25 AIs may be missing. AIs are planning documents that identify grantees' fair housing impediments and actions to overcome them. GAO said its findings cast doubt on the AIs' usefulness as a planning tool. In the absence of a department-wide initiative to enhance AI requirements and oversight, the report said, grantees may place a low priority on ensuring that their AIs serve as effective fair housing planning tools. GAO recommends that HUD require grantees to periodically update their AIs, follow a specific format and submit to HUD for review. In response, HUD noted recent efforts to enhance compliance and oversight.

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On October 29 HUD published proposed regulations governing the Housing Trust Fund (HTF). The Housing and Economic Recovery Act established the HTF to provide states with grants to preserve and expand the rental housing supply and increase homeownership opportunities for extremely low- and very low-income families. HUD said the HTF will operate much like the HOME program, with formula grants used to develop affordable housing units for rent or homeownership, and that both programs require the same grantee administration and HUD oversight functions. The agency proposes codifying the HTF regulations into a new subsection of the HOME program regulations, calling the proposed rule a logical step that enables the agency to streamline program requirements for grantees. HUD also proposed a rule to limit to 20 percent of each individual grant, the amount of HTF funds that may be used for operating cost assistance, and requested comments on how additional minimum property standards may be imposed to increase HTF-assisted units' efficiency. Comments on the proposed rule are due by December 28. Download the October 29 Federal Register notice at www.taxcredithousing.com for more details.

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HUD has published the 2011 operating cost adjustment factors (OCAFs), annual factors used to adjust Section 8 rents renewed under section 524 of the Multifamily Assisted Housing Reform and Affordability Act. For the fiscal year 2011 OCAF calculation, HUD reverted to a slightly modified version of the pre-2008 methodology. FY 2011 OCAFs are calculated at the state level as the sum of weighted average cost changes for wages, employee benefits, property taxes, insurance, supplies and equipment, fuel oil, electricity, natural gas, and water/sewer/trash using publicly available indices. A list of states' OCAFs for 2011 is available in the November 8 Federal Register.

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HUD announced that applications for the 2011 Housing and Urban Development Design Awards program are being accepted by the Residential Knowledge Community of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in conjunction with the Office of the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The awards recognize excellence in affordable housing, community-based design, participatory design and housing accessibility. Recipients' project will be publicized by HUD and in AIA's online newsletter, AIArchitect. Winning design will also be recognized during the AIA National Convention in New Orleans, La. in May. Eligibility criteria and online submission instructions are available at www.aia.org. Read about past winners online at www.huduser.org.

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HUD implemented stronger regulations under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to protect domestic abuse victims who receive rental assistance through HUD's public housing, Housing Choice Voucher and multifamily project-based Section 8 programs. Enacted in 2005, VAWA provides legal protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Improving on the agency's previous ruling in 2008, guidance in the new rule requires that housing authorities or management agents exhaust protective measures such as transferring the abuse victim to a different home; barring the abuser from the property; contacting law enforcement to increase police presence; and seeking other legal remedies to reduce or eliminate the threat to the victim before eviction. The new rule also broadens the definitions of actual and imminent threat. Refer to the October 27 Federal Register notice to read all the regulatory requirements under VAWA.