Enterprise Submits Joint Comment Letter to HUD Opposing Proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule

Enterprise submitted a joint comment letter alongsideHousing Partnership Network (HPN), Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF), National Housing Trust (NHT), and Stewards for Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF) to HUD on its proposed Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, which was published in the Federal Register on January 15. Enterprise and our partners urge HUD to withdraw the current proposed rule and allow additional time for the current AFFH regulation (Final Rule) to be implemented.

The organizations do not support HUD’s AFFH proposed rule because it is substantially weaker than the current regulation and diminishes HUD’s ability to enforce its AFFH responsibilities, as established in the Fair Housing Act of 1968. In particular, the organizations find that the proposed rule should be withdrawn because it: 1) redefines AFFH to primarily focus on local regulatory barriers to housing development and supply while not requiring an examination of residential segregation or impacts of local actions on protected classes; 2) diminishes public participation requirements; 3) uses a flawed definition to determine a jurisdiction’s fair housing performance; 4) disincentivizes regional collaboration; and 5) diminishes AFFH responsibilities for public housing authorities.

A number of community development stakeholders have voiced their opposition to the proposed rule, and last week, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) circulated a sign-on letter in the Senate urging HUD to withdraw its proposed rule and instead fully implement the 2015 AFFH regulation.

Today is the last day to submit comments opposing the HUD’s AFFH rule. Click here to submit a comment. To learn more about HUD’s proposed AFFH rule and to read the comment letter, click here for a blog post from Enterprise Senior Director of Public Policy Sarah Brundage.

President Signs $8.3 Billion Emergency Funding Package

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion emergency funding package focused on treating and preventing the further spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The legislation will help advance vaccine development, increase state and local health budgets, and bolster research and equipment stockpiles. On March 14, the House also passed the First Families Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). This legislation was negotiated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and passed the House with bi-partisan support and the approval of the President. The bill would provide funding for paid emergency leave, establish free coronavirus testing, support state unemployment programs, expand food assistance for vulnerable children and families, and protect frontline health workers. The impact of these packages would be wide ranging, but according to medical researchers there are certain segments of the population that remain at higher risk and are therefore in most need of services. One of those groups is the 550,000 people currently homeless across the United States.

The potential for a coronavirus outbreak among people experiencing homelessness is raising serious concerns among public health and housing officials, especially in jurisdictions with persisting homelessness challenges like Washington’s King County and some of California’s local jurisdictions. Individuals and families experiencing homelessness could be the most vulnerable to the coronavirus, as they lack the ability to maintain proper precautions and may also face more danger from serious infection because of existing illnesses. Further, isolating the illness in shelters will be very challenging due to the inability to self-quarantine. King County Executive Dow Constantine announced that the county plans to open a number of self-contained housing units, specifically for people experiencing homelessness. In Los Angeles, the Department of Public Health plans to coordinate efforts with service providers and managers of shelters to help reduce the transmission of the virus and manage a quarantine if it becomes necessary. The City of New York recently issued an 11-page document instructing shelters to screen those displaying symptoms and identify and isolate people who test positive to the best of their ability. Dr. Helen Chu, an infectious disease doctor who has studied the spread of disease in homeless shelters in Seattle told the New York Times in an interview that people experiencing homelessness are “extremely vulnerable” to the coronavirus. She argues for urgent steps to test people for the virus in shelters to help stop what could a rapid transmission. State and local governments have also taken bold action to support low-income families and renters who are in jeopardy of going homeless if they are unable to pay rent. These measures include placing a temporary moritorium on evictions and ensuring running water and utilities for residents.

To learn more about what mayors, city councils, and agency staff are doing at the state and local level be sure to read National Senior Director of State and Local Policy Flora Arabo’s blog post. As Congress considers additional emergency packages to address the impact of the coronavirus on public health and the economy, we urge Members of Congress to include funds that address the affordability of housing.

NCSHA Recommends Substantial Changes to HUD’s Proposed Rewrite of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule

This month, NCSHA submitted comments to HUD on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) proposed rule the department released earlier this year. The proposed rule, if implemented, would be a major departure from the previous AFFH final regulations that HUD published in 2015, significantly reducing HUD’s expectations of grantees’ AFFH obligations.

NCSHA, like other organizations that represent state and local HUD grantees, had numerous concerns about the 2015 AFFH regulations and the accompanying Fair Housing Assessment Tool. However, NCSHA believes the 2020 proposed rule also has significant flaws; most importantly, it fails to meet what NCSHA believes should be HUD’s ultimate objective: upholding the Fair Housing Act’s AFFH obligation by establishing a mechanism for meaningful and productive fair housing plans and actions, while minimizing, to the greatest extent feasible, the burden associated with implementing the regulation.

NCSHA’s comment letter urges HUD to instead issue a workable rule that achieves these core principles:

  • Focuses grantees’ AFFH activities directly on facilitating the goals of the Fair Housing Act, including eliminating discrimination, removing barriers to housing faced by protected classes, and promoting fair housing choice.
  • Provides grantees a clear framework that sets forth HUD’s expectations and holds grantees to a high standard while not being overly burdensome.
  • Bases grantees’ AFFH planning efforts on the best data available about the fair housing needs and obstacles in their communities and does not require extensive additional research or costly consulting.
  • Avoids requiring grantees to have or obtain expertise in policy areas unrelated or merely peripheral to affordable housing and fair housing.
  • Tailors HUD’s requirements by type of grantee as states, local governments, tribal entities, and local public housing authorities have different capacities, resources, and geographic scopes.
  • Oversees grantees’ AFFH planning in a way that ensures grantees are upholding the objectives of the Fair Housing Act.

While the proposed rule provides improvement in certain areas, we believe it falls short in other critical respects, and HUD should make significant changes to it before finalizing it. NCSHA’s recommendations to HUD emphasize reworking the proposed rule so that it would focus directly on the goals of the Fair Housing Act, require grantees to make data-driven choices when determining which obstacles to fair housing they will address, and better measure the quality of grantees’ AFFH actions.

For more information, contact Jennifer Schwartz.

NCSHA Urges IRS, Treasury to Establish Emergency Measures Related to Housing Credit Administration During COVID-19 Pandemic

NCSHA, on March 23, sent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Department of the Treasury a letter urging them to take immediate action to provide necessary accommodations for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit) program due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures are essential as social distancing, which is critical to safeguarding the health of Housing Credit residents and those who work in the industry, is resulting in severe disruptions to Housing Credit production and ongoing property operations.

In the letter, NCSHA encouraged IRS and Treasury to extend by one year specific program deadlines, including deadlines for meeting the 10 percent test for carryover allocations, placed-in-service requirements, rehabilitation expenditure, and restoration after a casualty loss. We also pressed IRS to provide a 12-month moratorium on both physical inspections and tenant file reviews, extend by 12 months all open noncompliance corrective action periods, suspend the yet-to-be-implemented compliance monitoring regulations published in 2019, and provide guidance on the temporary closure of property amenities.

For more information, contact Jennifer Schwartz.

Alert: Third COVID-19 Response Bill Advances, Housing Credit Advocacy Continues

Today, the House is expected to pass the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was already passed by the Senate on March 25. The President is expected to sign it shortly thereafter. The CARES Act is the third response bill to the growing coronavirus crisis.

While the package does not include relief from certain Housing Credit statutory deadlines as ACTION had requested, these requests appear to be well-positioned for inclusion in what we hope will be further Congressional action soon.

Specifically, the ACTION Campaign and industry participants are urging Congress to provide 12-month extensions for the program’s 10 percent test, placed in service deadlines, and rehabilitation expenditure deadlines. ACTION is also urging Congress to immediately enact a minimum 4 percent Housing Credit rate, as the credit rate for bond-financed properties and acquisition is at an all time low due to historically low federal borrowing rates. This has the potential to make some properties currently in the pipeline no longer financially feasible. ACTION will continue to advocate for these statutory asks to be included in future stimulus packages.

The legislation does, however, contain numerous housing related provisions:

  • $12.4 billion in new appropriations for HUD programs:
  • $5 billion for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG);
  • $4 billion for homeless assistance through Emergency Solutions Grants;
  • $1.25 billion for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance;
  • $1 billion for Project-Based Rental Assistance;
  • $685 million for the Public Housing Operating Fund;
  • $300 million for Native American programs, including $200 million for the Native American Housing Block Grants program and $100 million for the Indian Community Development Block Grant program;
  • $65 million for the Housing Opportunities for Person with AIDS (HOPWA);
  • $50 million for the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly;
  • $50 million for additional administrative expenses incurred by HUD due to COVID-19;
  • $15 million for the Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities;
  • $5 million for the HUD Inspector General to provide oversight for the additional funds being distributed; and
  • $2.5 million for fair housing activities including enforcement and outreach.
  • Forbearance of residential mortgage loan payments for multifamily properties:
  • Up to 90-day forbearance of residential mortgage loan payments for certain multifamily properties of up to 5+ units. This provision applies to all properties with mortgage loans that are insured, guaranteed, supplemented or assisted in any way by the federal government or in connection with any HUD program or related program administered by any federal agency. It also applies to loans purchased or securitized by either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The language appears to make forbearance available to all Housing Credit properties.
  • Moratorium on eviction filings:
  • 120-day moratorium on eviction filings or other legal action to charge fees or penalties applicable to all properties insured, guaranteed, supplemented, protected, or assisted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the rural housing voucher program, including all properties considered financed by “covered programs” under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994. The Housing Credit is a covered program under VAWA, and thus the moratorium on evictions applies to all Housing Credit properties.

The CARES Act also includes many programs and provisions to provide relief to individuals, businesses and state and local governments. Click here to view the full text of the CARES Act.

Housing Credit Advocacy Strategy

With the third coronavirus response bill soon to be enacted, it is likely that Congress will shift its attention to a fourth round of legislation addressing the growing crisis in the weeks ahead. The ACTION Campaign will continue its work to ensure that future legislation addresses the needs of the Housing Credit program during this time. We will also be pushing for our ongoing Housing Credit priorities, the enactment of which would contribute to economic recovery.

In the meantime, ACTION is also pursuing a parallel advocacy strategy for regulatory accommodations. ACTION co-chair NCSHA has sent a letter to the IRS that includes our programmatic deadline extension asks as well as several other Housing Credit accommodations.

Majority of House Cosponsors AHCIA!

ACTION Campaign Celebrates More Than Half of House

Cosponsoring the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act

March 13, 2020 – The majority of the House of Representatives has cosponsored the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, H.R.3077, with a total of 221 members signed on to the bipartisan legislation. The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (AHCIA) would strengthen and expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit), our nation’s most successful tool for building and preserving affordable housing.

The AHCIA was reintroduced in the House in June 2019 by Representatives Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1), Kenny Marchant (R-TX-24), Don Beyer (D-VA-8), and Jackie Walorski (R-IN-2). In the 115th Congress, the AHCIA was cosponsored by more than 40 percent of all members of Congress. This Congress, the AHCIA rapidly garnered bipartisan support and surpassed prior levels of cosponsorship, reflecting a growing consensus that communities nationwide need more affordable housing. The AHCIA has the most bipartisan support of any bill to build more affordable housing this Congress.

“The overwhelming support for the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act shows that members of Congress across the country see the housing crisis we face. My bill would help create approximately 550,000 new affordable housing units nationwide in the next decade. Now that a majority in the House is on record in support of this legislation, it is time to pass it,” said Congresswoman DelBene. “The housing crisis gets worse every year, and this is an important step to helping people find an affordable place to call home. States like Washington cannot wait any longer.”

“Affordable housing is vital for keeping our communities strong, which is why I have been a strong supporter of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit,” said Congressman Marchant. “This credit will help developers bring more affordable housing options to market, and can even be used to build housing specifically for our veterans, who have given so much to our country. With more than half of all Representatives now signed on as co-sponsors, it is time to pass the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act to expand and improve this credit and ensure that affordable housing is available for our vets and families of all kinds across the country.”

“Providing affordable housing is an enormous public policy challenge, and the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would do so much to help,” said Congressman Beyer. “I recently toured Northern Virginia shelters and affordable housing organizations, and this is definitely an area of major need in our region and across the United States. I’m happy the bill is achieving so much bipartisan support, and hope we get a chance to vote for it on the House floor soon.”

“The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit is an important tool to drive investment in affordable rental housing and provide stability for low-income Americans, including veterans, seniors, and those with special needs,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “I’m thrilled the bipartisan Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act is now cosponsored by the majority of the House, and I’m grateful for the hard work of my colleagues and advocates across Indiana and the country who helped achieve this exciting milestone. I look forward to continuing our work together to modernize and streamline the affordable housing credit to make an already successful program even more effective and give workers and families a better opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

A model public-private-partnership, the Housing Credit has financed 3.2 million affordable homes and served 7.4 million low-income households since the program’s inception in 1986. By strengthening and expanding the Housing Credit, the AHCIA would provide for more than half a million additional affordable homes nationwide over the next ten years.

The ACTION Campaign is a broad, national coalition calling on Congress to protect, expand, and strengthen the Housing Credit, and has proudly played a lead role in the advancement of the AHCIA. We thank the more than 2,300 national, state, and local organizations that are part of ACTION and have helped secure a record level of bipartisan cosponsors.

The ACTION Campaign calls on the remaining members of Congress to cosponsor the AHCIA, and for Congressional leadership to advance this bill and provide communities with the Housing Credit resources necessary to build and preserve more affordable housing.

Click here to view a full list of the AHCIA cosponsors.

Fannie & Freddie Forbearance Program, Ban on Evictions

Monday the FHFA announced that Fannie and Freddie will offer a forbearance program on all their multifamily loans. However, no evictions can take place during the term of the forbearance. Please click here for more information: https://www.novoco.com/sites/default/files/atoms/files/fhfa_moves_to_provide_eviction_suspension_relief_for_renters_in_multifamily_properties_032320.pdf

OHFA HOME Application Deadline Extended

As the risk of exposure to COVID-19 continues to increase in the State of Oklahoma, the National Housing Trust Fund and HOME Application training previously scheduled for March 16, 2020 was cancelled. A video of the training will be posted to OHFA’s website no later than April 4, 2020.

OHFA will begin accepting Applications for HOME Program Year 2020 on April 1, 2020, for all activities.

OHFA has extended the deadline to submit HOME Applications to be considered at the July 15, 2020 Board Meeting from May 1, 2020 to May 15, 2020.

OHFA Proposed Rules Changes for 2021 LIHTC Program & Board of Trustees Meeting

Coalition Members:

The Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency has reinstated the regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting for Wednesday, March 25, 2020 at 10:00am. This meeting will be held via teleconference. The public may access the teleconference remotely by dialing 631-992-3221 and entering access code 478-393-539. Please click on this link to access the agenda for meeting: https://www.ok.gov/ohfa/About_OHFA/Board_of_Trustees_Agendas/March_2020_Teleconference_Meeting.html

Of important note is Agenda Item 4.4 on the Consent Docket. This is changes to the Rules for the tax credit program. You may view the proposed changes by clicking here:

danette.carr or Darrell.beavers or by regular mail to the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency.

Unfortunately, due to the short time frame, the Coalition is unable to gather consensus items for submission.