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Q&A: Flat rent annual review

Flat rent annual reviewQUESTION    I’m confused about all of the flat rent changes over the past couple of years. I see that HUD has published FMRs for 2017 and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with them. Help, please!

ANSWER    You’re correct that HUD published the fair market rents (FMRs) for federal fiscal year (FFY) 2017 on August 26. The FMR data set includes a table of unadjusted rents. Small area fair market rents (SAFMRs) were posted on August 30. Your agency will need one or more of these data sets in order to comply with HUD’s current requirements for reviewing flat rents on an annual basis. The flat rent annual review must be completed within 90 days after the issuance of new FMRs.

The current requirements for determining public housing flat rents were published in the streamlining final rule (published March 8 in the Federal Register) and in Notice PIH 2015-13 (published September 8, 2015). The corresponding regulations are at 24 Code of Federal Regulations 960.253. PHAs are now required to set flat rents at no less than the lower of:

  • 80 percent of the applicable FMR
  • 80 percent of the SAFMR (published for metropolitan areas)
  • 80 percent of unadjusted rents (published for nonmetropolitan areas)

Alternatively, PHAs may apply for an exception waiver through HUD to allow a lower flat rent. For areas in which HUD has not published a SAFMR or unadjusted rent, flat rents must be set at no less than 80 percent of the applicable FMR.

Since FMRs are published annually, PHAs must now review flat rents each year to ensure compliance with the current rule. The following is an excerpt from Notice PIH 2015-13 which describes the requirements for the flat rent annual review:

In order to comply with the flat rent requirements annually, no later than 90 days after issuance of new FMRs or SAFMRs by HUD, the PHA must:

1. Compare the current flat rent amount to the applicable FMR and SAFMR/unadjusted rent:

a) If the flat rent is at least 80 percent of the lower of the FMR or SAFMR/unadjusted rent, the PHA is in compliance with the law, and no further steps are necessary;

b) If the flat rent is less than 80 percent of the lower of the FMR and SAFMR, the PHA must set flat rents at no less than 80 percent of the lower of the FMR or SAFMR/unadjusted rent, subject to the utilities adjustment in this notice, or the PHA may request an exception flat rent pursuant to the requirements of Section 4 of this notice;

2. Update the flat rent policies in the admissions and continued occupancy policies (ACOP) as necessary;

3. At all new admissions, permit the family to choose between the flat rent amount and the income-based rent; and

4. For families that are current public housing residents, offer the updated flat rent amount at the next annual rent option, and permit the family to choose between the flat rent amount and the income-based rent

Flat rent increases must be capped at 35 percent per year. PHAs are no longer permitted to phase in increases of 35 percent or less.

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