QUESTION We understand that HOTMA was signed into law by the president on July 29, 2016. Inasmuch as there are many substantive administrative changes to the HCV and public housing programs contained in this new law, we are wondering whether PHAs need to await the issuance of a HUD notice before they implement these changes (for example, increase in elderly/disabled deduction, asset limitations, reporting changes of 10 percent or more) or whether PHAs are obligated to immediately adopt these changes even before HUD issues new rules clarifying this new law? We have many recertifications in the pipeline and an answer to this question will obviously impact these pipeline cases.
ANSWER Most provisions of the Housing Opportunity through Modernization Act of 2016 (HOTMA) will not take effect until HUD has completed the formal rulemaking process. This typically involves issuance of a proposed rule, review of public comments, and publication of a final rule. Changes would likely go into effect 30 days after publication of the final rule, so it may be a year or more before PHAs are permitted to implement the new law.
Five self-implementing provisions of HOTMA were discussed in a letter to executive directors dated September 26. While the remaining HOTMA changes will be implemented through the formal rulemaking process, these five sections became effective immediately upon enactment. Implementation requirements are described below.
Reasonable accommodation payment standards: Section 102(d) of HOTMA provides that PHAs may establish, without HUD approval, a payment standard of up to 120 percent of the fair market rent (FMR) as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability. Since this option was made available under the March 8 streamlining final rule, no further action is required.
Fair market rents: Two changes involving FMRs are included in Section 107 of HOTMA. The first change involves HUD’s methods for establishing and publishing FMRs. HUD will no longer publish “proposed” and “final” versions of the FMRs, but PHAs and other interested parties may comment on the FMRs and request HUD to reevaluate them in a jurisdiction before those rents become effective. FMRs for fiscal year 2017 were published on August 26 using the new method.
HOTMA also provides that no PHA in the housing choice voucher (HCV) program is required, as a result of a reduction in the FMR, to reduce the payment standard applied to a family continuing to reside in a unit under a housing assistance payment (HAP) contract at the time the FMR was reduced. PHAs must adopt policies in their administrative plans that further explain this provision. According to the letter:
Effective July 29, 2016, PHAs may choose, but are no longer required, to reduce the payment standard for a family that remains under HAP contract at the family’s second annual reexamination if, as the result of a decrease in the FMR, the payment standard would otherwise fall outside the basic range. HUD will issue additional guidance on this change in the future.
Family Unification Program (FUP) changes: HOTMA expanded FUP eligibility and increased time limits for eligible youth. The changes were effective upon enactment. HUD issued a letter to FUP executive directors on August 29 to ensure awareness of the changes.
Citizenship preference: This provision applies only to Guam and requires a preference for U.S. citizens and nationals over citizens of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau. It was effective upon enactment of HOTMA.
Exception to resident board member requirement: HOTMA provides an exception to the requirement that the board must include at least one public housing resident for the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles and for any PHA in the states of Alaska, Iowa, and Mississippi. Since the provision has been in effect for a number of years through appropriations acts, no further action is required.
The letter contained the following guidance on HOTMA implementation:
All of the other sections in HOTMA that impact the HCV and public housing programs require that HUD first issue a notice or regulation for the provision to become effective. Until HUD issues the applicable notices or regulations, your PHA may not implement those additional sections. This information will also be transmitted in the near future via a Federal Register notice.
We realize that many PHAs are eager to implement the flexibilities and other statutory changes provided under HOTMA, so please be assured that HUD is working diligently to develop and provide the necessary implementation guidance in a timely manner. If you have any questions, please send them to HOTMAquestions@hud.gov.
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