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HUD publishes final rule on streamlining portability

Final rule on streamlining portabilityYesterday in the Federal Register, HUD published its final rule on streamlining portability. The corresponding proposed rule was published on March 28, 2012. The effective date for the final rule is September 21, 2015.

The final rule includes a couple of changes that apply to the entire HCV program and are not limited to families exercising portability:

Mandatory voucher suspension: The rule requires suspension or “tolling” of the voucher term upon a family’s submission of a Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA). Under the current rule, suspension is optional. The mandatory suspension begins when the family submits the RFTA and ends when the family is notified in writing of the approval or denial of the tenancy.

Briefing requirements: The final rule requires that the benefits of living in low-poverty census tracts must be explained to all families, not just those who currently live in higher-poverty areas. The required explanation of how portability works must now be given to all families, not just those who are eligible to exercise portability on initial voucher issuance.

The major changes to existing portability requirements and processes include:

Notification of insufficient funding: The rule adds a requirement that PHAs must notify the HUD field office within 10 business days of denying a move under portability due to insufficient funding.

Voucher term: The voucher issued by the receiving PHA (RHA) must have an expiration date at least 30 days after the expiration date of the voucher issued by the initial PHA (IHA). While the RHA may provide additional search time according to its existing policies, the billing deadline of 60 days after the expiration of the IHA’s voucher remains in effect.

Administrative fees: The final rule provides that the administrative fee for portability is the lesser of 80 percent of the IHA’s administrative fee (prorated if applicable) or 100 percent of the RHA’s administrative fee. In no event will the RHA receive more than its own administrative fee.

Family selection of RHA: When more than one PHA operates a voucher program in the area to which a family wishes to move, the current rule requires the IHA to select the agency which will assist the family. The new rule provides that the family may select the RHA and may seek assistance from the IHA in making its selection. The IHA must inform the family of the PHAs that serve the area and must provide the family with contact information for those PHAs.

No mandatory absorption: The proposed rule contained a provision that would have required the RHA to absorb incoming portable families if the RHA’s utilization rate was less than 95 percent. This provision has been dropped in the final rule.

Rescreening: The preamble to the rule states that RHAs “should be allowed” to apply their own screening standards to incoming portable families, and that information on how rescreening may affect a family’s assistance should be included in the briefing packet. HUD did not make any regulatory changes supporting this guidance.

The final rule also makes minor regulatory revisions in the requirements for family briefings, the definition of “absorption,” and portability rules for special purpose vouchers.

Got questions about portability? Don't miss our special session at the 2015 NMA Housing Conference, where NMA expert Gail Gillispie will address the streamlining final rule and other hot topics around portability. Register online or email for more information.