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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

HUD requests comments on AFFH changes

Posted by Annie Stevenson on Aug 16, 2018 2:36:17 PM

Today in the Federal Register, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking seeking public comment on amendments to HUD’s affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) regulations. As we reported on Monday, HUD issued a press release regarding the publication of this notice requesting comments with the goal to offer more helpful guidance to states and local communities to effectively promote fair housing choice. While public comment is not limited to the following, HUD is particularly interested in comments centering on these questions:

  • What type of community participation and consultation should program participants undertake in fulfilling their AFFH obligations?
  • How should the rule weigh the costs and benefits of data collection and analysis?
  • How should PHAs report their AFFH plans and progress?
  • Should the proposed rule specify the types of obstacles to fair housing that program participants must address as part of their AFFH efforts, or should program participants be able to determine the number and types of obstacles to address?
  • How much deference should jurisdictions be provided in establishing objectives to address obstacles to identified fair housing goals, and associated metrics and milestones for measuring progress?

Comments are due by October 15, 2018. Further details, including background on the rule’s review and how to submit comments, can be found in the notice.

In a related blog post today, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) explained how HUD’s proposed changes to the AFFH rule are inconsistent with research on the effect of neighborhoods on the well-being of children and adults.

Also today on the HUD channel at YouTube, HUD posted a video on the basics of the Fair Housing Act. The nearly 90-minute training video includes detailed explanations of the protections provided by the act and discusses the continued relevance of the law.

Learn more about fair housing regs

Topics: fair housing, proposed rule, Industry News

HUD Suspends AFFH Implementation

Posted by Annie Stevenson on May 23, 2018 12:46:36 PM

Today in the Federal Register, HUD published three notices concerning its suspension of implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) final rule. Draft versions of the notices were posted on May 18 with an accompanying press release.

The notices include:

In January, HUD announced the extension of the deadline for submission of an assessment of fair housing (AFH) by local government consolidated plan program participants until at least 2020. Earlier this month, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) announced that it filed a fair housing complaint against HUD over suspension of implementation of the AFFH rule.

In today’s first notice, HUD announces that it is withdrawing its January AFH suspension notice. In the second notice, HUD announces its withdrawal of the local government assessment tool “because it is inadequate to accomplish its purpose of guiding program participants to produce meaningful AFHs.” The third notice states that without the assessment tool there can be no AFH, and by extension the AFFH rule and its other components cannot be implemented. Any local government that has not yet submitted an AFH that has been accepted by HUD must instead conduct an analysis of impediments (AI), which was required prior to 2015.

For more information, see the AFFH page on HUD Exchange.

Topics: fair housing, final rule, Industry News

What's New in Fair Housing

Posted by NMA on Jul 6, 2017 12:26:30 PM

New Call-to-action

Cara Gillette trains, consults, and provides technical assistance nationwide in fair housing, public housing management, hearings, economic self-sufficiency, and governing boards. Prior to joining NMA, she administered public housing and Section 8 waiting lists, served as hearing officer, managed public housing, and oversaw resident economic development programs at the San Diego Housing Commission. 

Terry Provance has been a trainer and consultant at Nan McKay and Associates since 1999. He recently took the lead role in creating and developing NMA’s public housing occupancy tracking tool, which can be used by any rental development, whether or not it’s HUD-assisted, including mixed finance and LIHTC properties. Together, Cara and Terry will be presenting the following session at The Housing Conference in Boston this August.

Regulatory Knowledge for Smart Management

What's New in Fair Housing

Cara Gillette
Terry Provance

Is your PHA behind on its fair housing obligations? Are you up on the latest? Join NMA’s Fair Housing session and we’ll walk through the latest topics in a practical way:

  • The most up-to-date fair housing news as of the date of The Housing Conference
  • Quid Pro Quo & Hostile Environment Harassment Final Rule - how to protect your PHA and practical strategies on handling these issues as they arise
  • Instituting Smoke-Free Public Housing Final Rule – we’ll discuss possible reasonable accommodation requests, and your responses, as you institute smoke-free public housing
  • Arrest Records & Criminal History (PIH Notice, FAQs, OGC Guidance) – what your PHA needs to do differently and how to think it through
  • Nuisance Ordinances & LEP OGC Memos – three steps to analyze claims
  • Final Rule on VAWA 2013 – lots of important changes – we’ll go through the new forms, including your emergency transfer plan


Learn more


Topics: fair housing, The Housing Conference

HUD publishes final rule on civil penalties

Posted by NMA on May 30, 2017 1:33:15 PM

HUD publishes final rule on civil penalties

Today in the Federal Register, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a final rule amending HUD’s civil monetary penalty (CMP) regulations.

The rule makes final an interim rule published in June of last year, which included a new methodology for calculating civil money penalties, starting with a “catch up” adjustment correcting previous inaccuracies.

The final rule also provides for 2017 inflation adjustments for civil monetary penalty amounts. While the rule applies across a variety of HUD offices and programs, a few key parts may be of interest to PHAs:

  • 24 CFR 28.10, which covers the basis for civil penalties and assessments for those who make false claims against federal authorities or their agents, has been revised to state that a civil penalty of not more than $10,957 may be imposed for making such claims.
  • 24 CFR 30.25 states that the maximum penalty concerning certain prohibited conduct for applicants of assistance to HUD programs is $19,246 for each violation.
  • Under 24 CFR 30.65, the maximum penalty for failure to disclose lead-based paint hazards is $17,047 for each violation.
  • The maximum penalty for violations listed for Section 8 owners under 24 CFR 30.80 is $37,396 for each violation.

Civil penalties for Fair Housing Act cases have also been revised, as listed in 24 CFR 180.671:

  • If the respondent has not committed any prior discriminatory housing practice, the maximum amount of civil penalty is $20,111.
  • If the respondent has committed only one prior discriminatory housing practice within the past five years, the maximum civil penalty is $50,276.

If the respondent committed two or more within the past seven years, the maximum amount is $100,554.

NMA can bring standard or customized fair housing training to your agency onsite. Email for details.

Topics: fair housing, final rule, lead-based paint

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