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4 tips for being a fair housing superstar (part 1)

Posted by Adam Ensalaco on Mar 19, 2019 10:25:36 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 two coming out next week!

In Public Housing, There’s No Such Thing as a “Senior Building”

In the public housing program, there are four types of developments.

General Population

These developments are for anyone that meets the eligibility requirements. These are often called “family developments.”

Mixed Population

These developments are reserved for families where the head, spouse or cohead are either elderly (62 and up), or who have a HUD-defined disability.

Designated Disabled

These developments are reserved for families where the head, spouse, or co-head has a HUD-defined disability.

Designated Elderly

These developments are reserved for families where the head, spouse, or co-head is elderly.

The common issue is that many PHAs confuse the phrase “elderly families” with “elderly people.” 24 CFR 945.105 defines an elderly family as follows:

Elderly family means a family whose head, spouse, or sole member is an elderly person. The term “elderly family” includes an elderly person, two or more elderly persons living together, and one or more elderly persons living with one or more persons who are determined to be essential to the care or well-being of the elderly person or persons. An elderly family may include elderly persons with disabilities and other family members who are not elderly (emphasis mine).

This makes it clear that there are no public housing buildings which can legally exclude children. There are many reasons why this confusion occurs. First, many of these mixed population or designated elderly developments contain only studio or one-bedroom units. It can seem odd to public housing staff to allow an elderly head of household to share a one-bedroom unit with a minor child. But the Fair Housing Act prohibits familial status discrimination. This means that a PHA cannot treat families with children differently than families without them. If you would let an elderly couple share a one-bedroom, you must allow an elderly head of household to share a one-bedroom with a minor child as well.

It is also possible that no non-elderly person has ever tried to reside in that development. The community at large, the PHA staff, and the residents have all always just assumed that the development is for "seniors only." It is very common in class for PH staff to refer to these as "senior developments" although that is not a HUD term (more about this linguistic confusion later).

Lastly, many PHA staff, both in property and program management, began their careers in the private housing market, where senior-only housing is legal. And it’s not always immediately clear just how different HUD-funded housing is from private market housing.

What is critically important to understand, however, is that any families on the public housing waitlist who have a head, spouse, or cohead that is elderly must be considered an "elderly family" regardless of any minor children who may also be listed on the application. Failure to offer a unit in a mixed population or designated elderly development to such a family simply because of the presence of minors would be a violation of the Fair Housing Act and a contradiction of 24 CFR 945.105.

Finally, all specially designated developments (mixed population, designated elderly, and designated disabled) must be included in a PHA’s annual contributions contract.

Next: Understand What Reasonable Accommodation Is (and Is Not)

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, seniors and elderly, Knowledge Base

FAQ Friday: Eligible Immigration Status

Posted by Annie Stevenson on Jul 20, 2018 9:48:28 AM


Please provide some guidance on eligible immigration status. We know that some noncitizens are eligible (such as permanent residents) and some are ineligible (such as students on a student visa). We’re not sure about other categories such as “nonimmigrant.”

Is there a listing somewhere that gives specifics about what is and what isn’t an eligible status?


The applicable regulation is at 24 Code of Federal Regulations 5.506(a):

Restrictions on assistance. Financial assistance under a Section 214 covered program is restricted to:
(1) Citizens; or
(2) Noncitizens who have eligible immigration status under one of the categories set forth in Section 214 (see 42 U.S.C. 1436a(a)).

The eligible categories are not listed in the HUD regulation, so we have to look at the United States Code under Title 42, Section 1436(a). The US Code lists the groups of eligible immigrants:

Conditions for assistance. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the applicable Secretary may not make financial assistance available for the benefit of any alien unless that alien is a resident of the United States and is—
(1) an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence as an immigrant as defined by section 1101(a)(15) and (20) of title 8, excluding, among others, alien visitors, tourists, diplomats, and students who enter the United States temporarily with no intention of abandoning their residence in a foreign country;
(2) an alien who entered the United States prior to June 30, 1948, or such subsequent date as is enacted by law, has continuously maintained his or her residence in the United States since then, and is not ineligible for citizenship, but who is deemed to be lawfully admitted for permanent residence as a result of an exercise of discretion by the Attorney General pursuant to section 1259 of title 8;
(3) an alien who is lawfully present in the United States pursuant to an admission under section 1157 of title 8 or pursuant to the granting of asylum (which has not been terminated) under section 1158 of title 8;
(4) an alien who is lawfully present in the United States as a result of an exercise of discretion by the Attorney General for emergent reasons or reasons deemed strictly in the public interest pursuant to section 1182(d)(5) of title 8;
(5) an alien who is lawfully present in the United States as a result of the Attorney General’s withholding deportation pursuant to section 1231(b)(3) of title 8;
(6) an alien lawfully admitted for temporary or permanent residence under section 1255a of title 8; or
(7) an alien who is lawfully resident in the United States and its territories and possessions under section 141 of the Compacts of Free Association between the Government of the United States and the Governments of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (48 U.S.C. 1901 note) and Palau.

The eligible categories are also listed on the second page of HUD’s model declaration of Section 214 status. Noncitizens who are not in an eligible category are ineligible. This includes undocumented persons, students on a student visa, workers on a work visa, sponsored aliens, fiancées, and all others not categorized as eligible.

Aliens in nonimmigrant status are most likely ineligible. Here is the definition of “nonimmigrant” from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website:

An alien who seeks temporary entry to the United States for a specific purpose. The alien must have a permanent residence abroad (for most classes of admission) and qualify for the nonimmigrant classification sought. The nonimmigrant classifications include: foreign government officials, visitors for business and for pleasure, aliens in transit through the United States, treaty traders and investors, students, international representatives, temporary workers and trainees, representatives of foreign information media, exchange visitors, fiance(e)s of U.S. citizens, intracompany transferees, NATO officials, religious workers, and some others.
Learn more about HCV eligibilityLearn more about PH eligibility

Topics: eligibility, Q&A, Knowledge Base

RAD: Post-Closing Operational Transition for PBRA

Posted by NMA on Aug 24, 2016 11:27:02 AM

NMA trainers Samantha Sowards and Sheryl Putnam will be presenting a session on RAD conversion to PBRA at The Housing Conference

As director of professional development, Sheryl Putnam has spearheaded the development of several NMA seminars, including Blended Occupancy ManagementFundamentals of LIHTC Management, and our newest class, Multifamily Housing Specialist (MHS). Prior to joining Nan McKay and Associates in 2011, she managed the compliance department for a state housing finance agency, providing compliance oversight activities for the LIHTC, PBRA, and HOME programs.

Senior trainer Samantha Sowards has been a part of the NMA team since 2008. As NMA’s manager of curriculum development, Samantha oversees publications from concept and creation through the ongoing revision process, including NMA Master Books, model policies, and handbooks. Sheryl and Samantha will be presenting the following session at the The Housing Conference in San Antonio this September.

Regulatory Knowledge for Smart Management

RAD: Post-Closing Operational Transition for PBRA
Presenters, Sheryl Putnam and Samantha Sowards

Congratulations, you’ve been approved for a RAD conversion to project-based rental assistance (PBRA). Now that you’ve been approved — or are waiting for approval — what’s next? This session will cover the key differences between public housing, PBRA, and RAD PBRA that you and your team need to know about. We will cover in-place resident considerations, eligibility and occupancy differences, rent phase-in requirements, what to do when TTP is greater than the contract/market rent, and more. We will also touch on some blended occupancy issues if you are adding low-income housing tax credits.

If you're interested in learning more about PBRA, don't miss our upcoming session of Multifamily Housing Specialist! Conference attendees save 10% on the seminar, which will be held immediately following the first two days of the The Housing Conference. Extend your stay and expand your learning! Register online or email for more information. Don't delay, room blocks are filling up fast.

Topics: blended occupancy, eligibility, LIHTC, occupancy, PBRA, public housing conversion, RAD, rent calculation, The Housing Conference

Using HUD’s Two-Year Forecasting Tool to Create an Ongoing Leasing Plan

Posted by NMA on Jun 30, 2016 9:56:49 AM

NMA senior consultant Teri Robertson will be presenting a hands-on workshop for creating an ongoing HCV leasing plan

NMA senior consultant Teri Robertson is nationally recognized as a leading expert in HCV and Section 8. She has written for the NMA blog about HCV administrative fees, how to maximize your agency’s performance rating, and working with sequestration in the HCV program. Teri will be presenting the following session at The Housing Conference in San Antonio this September.

Best Practices for Program Success

Using HUD’s Two-Year Forecasting Tool to Create an Ongoing Leasing Plan
Presenter, Teri Robertson

Join us for this hands-on workshop and discover how to eliminate leasing events in the HCV program! You'll learn how to tweak HUD’s two-year forecasting tool to create an ongoing HCV leasing plan showing:

  • How many families to select from the waiting list
  • When to select the families
  • How leasing activities will impact utilization

We’ll provide you with an Excel tool to track eligibility success rates, so you can base the number of families to select from the waiting list on factual, historical information. Presenter Teri Robertson will demonstrate how to create a plan for selecting families every month to avoid those disruptive leasing events. As an added bonus, she'll demonstrate how to perform a rent burden analysis to determine whether higher payment standards are in fact justified.

Register online or email for more information. Don’t delay, less than 24 hours left for early bird pricing!

Topics: eligibility, HCV utilization, The Housing Conference

HUD publishes new guidance on streamlining final rule

Posted by NMA on Apr 12, 2016 12:52:19 PM

govt-columns.jpgThe Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has published a 33-page notice containing guidance for implementing the streamlining final rule. The streamlining rule was published on March 8 in the Federal Register. Notice PIH 2016-05 is dated April 7, 2016.

The notice includes a three-page narrative followed by 15 attachments, each addressing a separate provision of the streamlining rule. Each attachment describes the applicable regulation, the programs to which the rule applies, a background and description of the change, whether the change is mandatory or discretionary, and the effective date for the change.

In the narrative portion of the notice, HUD discusses the requirement for revisions to an agency’s administrative plan and/or admissions and continued occupancy policies (ACOP). PHA policies must be revised prior to the implementation of discretionary changes. Each PHA must also determine whether policy revisions constitute a significant amendment to the agency plan, and if so, must follow the agency plan amendment process before implementing the change. Furthermore, the notice states that a PHA must begin the process of revising its administrative plan/ACOP/agency plan as soon as possible so that modifications may be implemented in a timely manner.

The notice’s 15 individual attachments contain implementation guidance for regulatory changes to the following program areas:

  • Verification of social security numbers
  • Definition of extremely low-income families
  • Exclusion of mandatory education fees
  • Streamlined annual reexaminations for fixed sources of income
  • Earned income disregard
  • Family declaration of assets which do not exceed $5,000
  • Utility reimbursements
  • Public housing rents for mixed families
  • Self-certification for the community service requirement
  • Public housing grievance procedures
  • Biennial inspections and use of alternative inspections
  • HQS reinspection fees
  • Exception payment standards as reasonable accommodations
  • Regular and interim reexaminations
  • Utility allowance schedules

HUD followed that guidance with Notice PIH 2016-06, “Administering the Self-Certification Flexibility when Verifying Community Service and Self-Sufficiency Requirement (CSSR) Compliance.” The notice provides clarification of the self-certification option introduced in the streamlining final rule, specifically regarding tenant notification and validation requirements.

Under the streamlining rule, agencies adopting a policy permitting self-certification of community service compliance must notify residents of the option. The notice contains revised versions of Attachment A (Entrance Acknowledgment) and Attachment B (Annual Renewal) containing the required language. The attachments are examples and are not HUD-required forms.

The notice directs PHAs that plan to accept self-certifications to develop standardized forms which must include:

  • A statement that the resident has completed the number of hours listed and this statement is subject to penalties of perjury
  • The number of hours and type of activity (community service or self-sufficiency) that the resident completed
  • The name of the organization or person for which the activity was completed
  • The address of the organization or person
  • The phone number of the organization or person, and
  • A contact person in the organization or the person for which the activity was completed

PHAs that adopt a policy for accepting self-certification must validate a sample of the certifications through third-party documentation. The required sample size, based on a universe of residents who submitted self-certifications, is shown in Appendix C to the notice. For example, a PHA with a universe of 27 self-certifications must validate at least 21 self-certifications. Validation procedures must follow the verification requirements of Notice PIH 2010-19.

As explained in the notice, PHAs must update their community service policies prior to accepting resident self-certifications, and may only accept such certifications prospectively.

For residents under lease at the time the PHA amends its policies, the PHA must review annual compliance and obtain third-party verification for that lease cycle. However, for any subsequent lease cycles beginning after the PHA has adopted the policy change, the PHA may accept resident self-certifications for those periods. A PHA may not accept resident self-certifications for tenants subject to a work-out agreement until the resident has completed, and the PHA has verified through a third party, that the resident has completed the required hours.

Our technical writers and subject matter experts are currently working on a revision to both our model ACOP and model administrative plan. Because the streamlining final rule includes several new policy options, we will be issuing a special mid-year revision rather than having customers wait for the standard annual revision. We were in the process of formatting the revision when HUD released these two clarifying notices, and are now going back to rework our revisions. This has pushed our timeline back a bit.

Once the revision is done, we’ll be releasing it in two ways: we will announce on our website and in the PIH Alert when electronic copies are available to be emailed by request, and we will also offer copies on CD through the mail. I anticipate that the electronic copies will be ready in about three weeks. Once you see our announcement, you can just request that we email them to you. If you’d prefer to get them through the mail, those will take longer since you have to wait for us to print CDs and ship them, probably about a month from now.

We have also reviewed all our seminars and updated them with new guidance as needed.

HCV seminars updated for the streamlining final rule:

Public housing seminars updated for the streamlining final rule:

Multifamily seminars updated for the streamlining final rule:

Thank you to all our subscribers and students. If you have any questions, you can get in touch with the NMA team by emailing or calling us at (800) 783-3100.

Senior trainer Samantha Sowards has been a part of the NMA team since 2008. As NMA’s manager of curriculum development, Samantha oversees publications from concept and creation through the ongoing revision process, including NMA Master Books, model policies, and handbooks.

Topics: books and revision services, community service, EID, eligibility, final rule, HQS, inspections, occupancy, PIH notices, reasonable accommodation, rent calculation, streamlining, utilities

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