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Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #19

Cara Gillette

While public housing funding for May is now at an 82% proration level (up from 79% in April), sequestration is still in effect, and Congress shows no inclination to reverse it any time soon.

The business of owning and managing affordable housing in decent, safe, and sanitary condition and in good repair remains our mission. PHAs need to plan more strategically than ever before. So, as all businesses must ask in tough times: How can we maximize dollars and cut costs?

Tip #19: Limit liability.

Losing a lawsuit is a way to lose big money. Avoid getting hit with a voluntary compliance agreement (VCA), which can be extremely time-consuming and expensive.

Make sure your reasonable accommodation processes, forms, and policies are compliant, understandable, understood by staff, and communicated to applicants and residents. If your PHA has 15 employees or more, you're required to have a 504 coordinator, although of course in smaller PHAs that function may be fulfilled by the executive director or other manager. Track your reasonable accommodation requests, and have a final approval process for any denial of a reasonable accommodation.

Be proactive and vigilant about other fair housing issues. Take another look at your LEP plan for competent interpretation and written translation of key documents (or key portions of key documents). Make sure you're not prohibiting children in your elderly/disabled developments — the eligibility requirement is that the head of house, spouse, or cohead are 62 years or older or meet the HUD definition of disabled. Nothing allows you to prohibit children in public housing.

Be sure that you're implementing Section 3 requirements in your procurement processes. FHEO is monitoring this, a sure sign that HUD is serious about it. We've seen PHAs, counties, and even states put under VCAs for lack of fully implementing Section 3.

Lastly, never skip any steps when it comes to safety. Onsite staff as well as maintenance technicians should note anything with the potential to become unsafe, and a work order should be issued. Train staff to keep their eyes out for potential safety hazards when walking the grounds and common areas. Staff, as well as maintenance, should understand what a health and safety deficiency is under the uniform physical condition standards (UPCS).

Next: Working with sequestration in the public housing program: Tip #20

NMA senior associate 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, Ms. Gillette served at the San Diego Housing Commission, administering its public housing and Section 8 waiting lists, serving as hearing officer, managing public housing, and overseeing resident economic development programs. She has previously written for the NMA blog about blended occupancy projects.

If you find that you need staffing help during sequestration, NMA can assist your agency with recertifications (done remotely), quality control, outsourced hearing officer services (done remotely), HQS inspections, and more. Email for more information.