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REAC previews new inspection protocol, issues inspector notice on carbon monoxide detectors

Posted by Annie Stevenson on Apr 2, 2019 11:17:33 AM

HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) has established a new website with information about planned changes to its physical housing inspection model. The new model, National Standards for the Physical Inspection of Real Estate (NSPIRE), is intended to improve upon the current Uniform Physical Condition Standards (UPCS) protocol by prioritizing health, safety, and functional defects.

As a first step in revising inspection requirements, HUD published Notice PIH 2019-02/H 2019-04 on February 22. The notice reduced the advance notification time for REAC inspections to 14 days. HUD then began a nationwide series of listening sessions on the new inspection model.

Resources available on the NSPIRE website include a description of the NSPIRE concept and learning materials from the listening sessions held in Philadelphia and Fort Worth.

A two-year, voluntary demonstration of the NSPIRE protocol is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of fiscal year 2019. REAC will publish a notice on the demonstration at a later date. Recommendations on the new model and demonstration may be submitted to NSPIRE@hud.gov.

On March 25, HUD’s Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) issued Inspector Notice 2019-01 establishing guidance for inspectors on performing a data collection process to determine the prevalence of carbon monoxide detectors at properties subject to inspection under the Uniform Physical Condition Standards (UPCS) protocol.

The notice does not require the presence of carbon monoxide detectors, nor does the absence of such detectors affect a property’s UPCS score—noting the presence or absence of such detectors is for data collection purposes only. The specific procedures required for inspectors to collect data can be found on page 2 of the notice. As the notice explains, this data collection is part of the department’s efforts to support decent, safe, and sanitary housing that is in good repair, and REAC’s commitment to continuous improvement of physical inspection standards.

Need help with UPCS? Talk to our inspections team

Topics: indoor air quality, inspections, PIH notices, UPCS, Industry News, NSPIRE

4 tips for being a fair housing superstar (part 3)

Posted by Adam Ensalaco on Apr 2, 2019 11:01:00 AM

How to become a fair housing superstar

April is Fair Housing Month! In honor of this occasion, I’m sharing four tips I’ve learned over the years. From “senior buildings” and reasonable accommodation to service animals and housing terminology, I’m here to get you on the path to becoming the fair housing superstar I know you are. This is a four part series, so be on the lookout for part four coming out next week!


Understand The "Critters" of Public Housing

There are three legally distinct types of animals in public housing.

Service Animals:

Service animals are dogs or miniature horses that have been trained to do something specifically related to a disability. Examples include a guide dog (or guide horse) for a client with vision impairment, a seizure alert dog, or a dog trained to bring various items (shoes, medicine, remote control) to a client with disabilities. PHAs may only ask if the dog is needed for a disability and what it has been trained to do. However, if it’s clearly obvious to the PHA (i.e. a guide dog for a client you can tell or already know to have a vision impairment) then no questions should be asked. PHAs may not ask what the disability is, how extreme it is, proof that the dog can do it, proof that it has been trained or licensed. Note that service animals are not reasonable accommodations. The same four-step process outlined above does not apply here (see the Americans With Disabilities Act for more guidance).

Assistance Animals:

assistance animals, on the other hand, are reasonable accommodations. These animals do not have to be a dog or a miniature horse, do not need to be trained to do anything specific but do need to be related to a disability. This is the category where we would find “emotional support” animals. Here’s what FHEO 2013-01 has to say:

An assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person's disability. Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, neither the FHAct nor Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified. While dogs are the most common type of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals.

Neither service animals nor assistance animals are pets, and neither of them are subject to the regulatory restrictions under 24 CFR Part 960 Subpart G and Part 5 Subpart C.

Pets:

24 CFR 960 Subpart G and Part 5 Subpart C cover pet ownership in public housing. As PHAs that own public housing are landlords in their jurisdictions, HUD intends for them to follow all the state or local laws and ordinances that govern pet ownership in their area. This includes establishing pet fees, inoculation requirements, limitations on the number and size of animals per square foot of living space, etc.

From a fair housing perspective, what’s most important to remember is that service animals and assistance animals are not pets.

Next: Don’t Confuse Yourself

 

Want to build up your fair housing knowledge?

Check out our fair housing resources

 


More about the author:

Headshot of Adam Ensalaco

Adam Ensalaco specializes in making rent calculation easier to understand and clearing up common misconceptions about the process. Adam has previous experience in the affordable housing industry working to house people with disabilities and training housing authorities on reasonable accommodations and has been a part of the NMA team for nearly a decade.

Topics: eligibility, fair housing, service animals, Knowledge Base

HUD charges Facebook with housing discrimination

Posted by Annie Stevenson on Apr 2, 2019 8:33:55 AM

HUD Charges Facebook

In a press release posted Thursday March 28, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it has filed a charge of housing discrimination against Facebook.

The charge alleges that the policies and practices of Facebook violate the Fair Housing Act by allowing landlords and home sellers to use its advertising platform to engage in housing discrimination.

Today’s announcement follows HUD’s filing of a Secretary-initiated complaint in August 2018. HUD alleges that Facebook unlawfully discriminates based on race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, sex, and disability by restricting who can view housing-related ads on Facebook’s platforms and across the internet. Further, HUD claims Facebook mines extensive data about its users and then uses those data to determine which of its users view housing-related ads based, in part, on these protected characteristics.

According to HUD’s charge, Facebook enabled advertisers to exclude people whom Facebook classified as parents, non-American-born, non-Christian, interested in accessibility, interested in Hispanic culture, or a wide variety of other interests that closely align with the Fair Housing Act’s protected classes.

HUD is also charging that Facebook enabled advertisers to exclude people based upon their neighborhood by drawing a red line around those neighborhoods on a map. Facebook also allegedly gave advertisers the option of showing ads only to men or only to women.

“Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”

 

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Topics: fair housing, Industry News

Housing and community news: Mar 29, 2019

Posted by NMA on Mar 29, 2019 12:09:39 PM

What we're reading now: the latest housing reports and analysis

National Housing Law Project: President directs Treasury and HUD to develop housing finance reform plans

The president issued a memorandum on March 27, which ordered "federal agencies to develop proposals for reforming various aspects of the housing finance system."

The Treasury, in particular, was directed to create a plan for removing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from conservatorship. In the memorandum, HUD was encouraged to make changes to the housing finance programs that are supported by the Federal Housing Administration (FAH) and Ginnie Mae.

Both the Treasury and HUD will submit their plans to the White House at their earliest convenience.

 

In other news:

Multi-Housing News Online: POAH’s Aaron Gornstein on affordable housing

  • Multi-Housing News sat down with Aaron Gornstein, an industry leader and president/ CEO of Preservation of Affordable Housing, to talk about the poignant affordable housing issue happening in America.

Saporta Report: Atlanta’s home prices are soaring. Can a new model keep some affordable forever?

  • The Saporta Report dives into Atlanta's housing past and looks at a new model to see how the plan might fit into Atlanta's current affordable housing climate and the impact it could have.

Next City: Small cities feel the clock ticking on Opportunity Zones

  • Next City looks at Opportunity Zones, which is a new federal tax incentive that encourages investment in low-income census tracts, and how it could be used for residents and small business in small cities.

City of Minneapolis: City Council approves Renter-First Housing Policy prioritizing renter protections

  • Minneapolis's City Council approved a Renter-First Housing Policy. The policy is to provide protection and stability to the city's renters.

 

Urban Institute: Dismantling the harmful, false narrative that homelessness is a choice

  • The Urban Institute talked with Mental Health Center of Denver's supportive housing provider Takisha Keesee about common misconceptions around people experiencing homelessness

 

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Topics: Industry News

4 tips for being a fair housing superstar (part 2)

Posted by Adam Ensalaco on Mar 26, 2019 10:45:00 AM

How to become a fair housing superstar

Next month is Fair Housing Month! In honor of this occasion, I’m sharing four tips I’ve learned over the years. From “senior buildings” and reasonable accommodation to service animals and housing terminology, I’m here to get you on the path to becoming the fair housing superstar I know you are. This is a four part series, so be on the lookout for part three coming out next week!

Understand What Reasonable
Accommodation
Is (and Is Not)

The reasonable accommodation process can be a major thorn in the side of PHA staff if they do not understand the nuances of the guidance. Confusion often leads to frustration often leads to fatalism. Not being discerning enough can lead to fraud and OIG audits, being too overly skeptical can lead to lawsuits and charges of discrimination. More than 50% of discrimination complaints to HUD are based on disability-based discrimination.

Any trainer will tell you the key to helping students remember information is repetition. Whenever I train reasonable accommodation, I repeat over and over again, “reasonable accommodation is not a rubber stamp, and it’s not a blank check. That said, if everyone understood reasonable accommodation correctly, they would say ‘yes’ more often than they currently do.”

There are four steps to any reasonable accommodation.

  1. Hearing the request:

    They don’t always involve your client walking into your office and declaring, "I hearby request that you accommodate me!" Often, it’s something much more like, “I know I already got one extension on my voucher, but I need more time.” If your policy is only one extension, then your response should be something like, “well our policy is one extension only, unless a disability is making your housing search more difficult.” Or maybe the client says, “when I moved into that second-floor walk-up unit, it was no problem, but my arthritis is acting up and getting up and down those stairs is really difficult now. Is there any way I can move to a first-floor unit?” You may have a reasonable accommodation request form for the client so that you can keep your files well-documented but remember that you cannot hold up the process just because they refuse to complete the form. Once a request is made—even just verbally—it has been made and the PHA must act upon it (this is addressed in the Q&A section of the HOD/DOJ Joint Statement on Reasonable Accommodations).

  2. Verifying that a disability is present:

    If the disability is “obvious or otherwise known” then no verification is permitted. Asking your client who just lost their legs in a tragic accident to get a doctor’s note to verify the disability is strictly prohibited. But many, if not most, disabilities are invisible to us as we are not trained in those fields. PHAs are often put in the position of saying, “ok, it’s not that we don’t believe you, but since we’re not qualified to determine if you have a disability, we’re going to need a knowledgeable professional to verify for us. We can give you a form to take to them or we can send it directly to them if you give us the contact information.”

  3. Establishing the nexus:

    The “nexus” is the connection between the disability and the request. What turns this want into a need? Everyone in the world wants an extra bedroom. But why does this client need more space than they currently have? We also need to recognize that sometimes multiple nexuses can overlap. Sometimes a client needs a live-in aide and also needs to use their voucher or find a public housing unit in a particular neighborhood close to their doctor or family members who assist them.

  4. Determine if the request is “reasonable”:

    PIH 2014-25 has this to say:

A reasonable accommodation request may only be denied if it would impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider or fundamentally alter the nature of the provider’s operations.

It is critical to note that this language was absent from the previous notice on reasonable accommodations, PIH 2010-51. The only difference from 2010-51 to 2014-25 was to include the sentence I have quoted here. It seems that HUD wanted to make this point very clear.

The important word here is “undue.” Any request out of the ordinary workflow is more work, and therefore an administrative burden; but is it really “undue?”

Example: Three months after moving into a second-floor walk-up unit, your client requests to move to a first-floor unit because they are having difficulty navigating the stairs. The nexus is clear but beginning the moving process this quickly after getting a client leased-up is certainly more work than you were expecting to do that day, but it’s still standard PHA fare. So it’s an administrative burden, but not an undue one. In this example, the PHA would grant this request. 

Students often comment, “but if I say yes to this, I know that thirty people will come in tomorrow asking for the exact same thing.” Possible exaggeration aside, yes: word can certainly spread, especially in public housing where your clients are neighbors. Nevertheless, a reasonable accommodation cannot be denied simply because saying yes could open the floodgates. You are approving or denying this request on its merits alone.

It is also important, though to remember that no regulation can force you to conjure resources you don’t have out of thin air. If there are no vacant accessible units in your public housing program, then all you can do is place them on your transfer list and keep them posted. You can issue a voucher, you can grant extensions, but you likely don’t have the funds to renovate a private unit to make it fully accessible.

Reasonable accommodation: It’s not a rubber stamp, it’s not a blank check, but if everyone did it right there would be more yeses than there currently are.

 

Next: Understand The "Critters" of Public Housing

 

Want to build up your fair housing knowledge?

Check out our fair housing resources

 


More about the author:

Headshot of Adam Ensalaco

Adam Ensalaco specializes in making rent calculation easier to understand and clearing up common misconceptions about the process. Adam has previous experience in the affordable housing industry working to house people with disabilities and training housing authorities on reasonable accommodations and has been a part of the NMA team for nearly a decade.

Topics: eligibility, fair housing, reasonable accommodation, Knowledge Base

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