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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

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

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

Question

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?

Answer

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 sales@nanmckay.com 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

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