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HUD Issues COVID-19 Guidance, Waivers for HOME Program

Published on April 14, 2020 by Jennifer Schwartz
HUD Issues COVID-19 Guidance, Waivers for HOME Program

HUD has published two memoranda providing guidance, including suspensions of statutory provisions and other regulatory waivers, for the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program and HOME Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) to help participating jurisdictions (PJs) respond to housing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The HOME and HOME TBRA guidance covers nearly every recommendation NCSHA made to HUD in our March 30 letter on Community Planning and Development programs’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The memos note that suspensions of statutory provisions provided in the HOME and HOME TBRA guidance are available only to PJs covered by a Major Disaster declaration, whereas waivers of regulatory provisions apply to all PJs. However, this distinction is largely irrelevant as every state, the District of Columbia, and all but one U.S. territory are currently under a Major Disaster declaration.

Flexibilities included in the HOME and HOME TBRA COVID-19 guidance include:

  • Raising the cap on HOME administrative expenses from 10 percent of a PJ’s annual allocation to 25 percent for Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and FY 2020 allocations;
  • Waiving the HOME match requirement for funds expended in a Major Disaster area between October 1, 2019, and September 30, 2021;
  • Eliminating the need for PJs to amend their current Consolidated Plans to include an analysis of local market conditions before implementing a TBRA program and related requirements;
  • Permitting PJs to amend their citizen participation plans in their FY 2020 and earlier Consolidated Plan or Action Plans, providing only a five-day comment period;
  • Suspending until December 31, 2020, the requirement for PJs to establish written tenant selection criteria for their TBRA programs;
  • Until December 31, 2020, allowing PJs to provide immediate TBRA to families and individuals without requiring PJs to assess rent reasonableness;
  • Until December 31, 2020, allowing PJs to provide TBRA help up to 100 percent of the cost of rent, security deposit payments, and utility bills for tenants affected by reduction or loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Until December 31, 2020, waiving the requirement that the term of TBRA begins on the first day of the term of a lease so that PJs may assist affected households that already have executed leases;
  • Until December 31, 2020, waiving the requirement that a TBRA recipient’s lease comply with all tenant protection requirements, so long as the PJ still complies with all Violence Against Women Act requirements;
  • Until December 31, 2020, waiving the source documentation requirements for income certification related to households receiving TBRA as long as the tenant provides a self-certification of their income that indicates how the tenant’s financial situation has changed and includes all income, including unemployment or emergency benefits, received as a result of the pandemic;
  • Until December 31, 2020, waiving the annual Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection for TBRA units, as long as PJs conduct such inspections within 120 days of the waiver’s expiration, and waiving the requirement that units in which TBRA recipients reside meet HQS if TBRA is provided to a resident with an existing executed lease (with the exception of lead-based housing requirements, which cannot be waived);
  • Suspending until December 31, 2020, the HOME four-year completion deadline for projects that would have faced the deadline on or after April 10, 2020;
  • Suspending until December 31, 2020, the HOME nine-month homebuyer sale deadline for projects that would have faced the deadline on or after April 10, 2020;
  • Suspending the Community Housing Development Organizations (CHDOs) set-aside requirement for FY 2017 through FY 2020 allocations;
  • Raising the CHDO operating assistance allowance from 5 percent to 10 percent of a PJ’s annual HOME allocation for FY 2019 and FY 2020 allocations and permitting PJs to provide CHDOs operating assistance without the requirement that a CHDO receive CHDO set-aside funds within 24 months of receiving the operating assistance;
  • Until December 31, 2020, allowing PJs to use self-certification of income in lieu of source documentation to determine eligibility to reside in a HOME-assisted unit for people impacted by COVID-19, as long as the PJ conducts an on-site rent and income review within 90 days after the waiver period;
  • Until December 31, 2020, waiving the HOME on-site inspection requirement as long as PJs conduct physical inspections and on-site reviews of compliance with rent and income requirements (unless the project owner is able to make that documentation available electronically) of units within 120 days of the end of the waiver period;
  • Until December 31, 2020, providing greater flexibility in the use of HOME to provide operating funds for troubled HOME properties;
  • Suspending until December 31, 2020, the time frame for a PJ’s response to findings of noncompliance.

HUD also published guidance related to flexibilities provided for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) annual appropriations and CDBG supplemental funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CDBG-CV). HUD will provide further detail on the CDBG guidance in a soon-to-be-published Federal Register notice regarding requirements for CDBG-CV grants.

While the guidance HUD has published thus far does not include waivers related to the Housing Trust Fund (HTF), HUD tells NCSHA it intends to publish COVID-19 guidance for HTF as well. However, HUD’s ability to provide waivers for HTF is limited, as the law enacting HTF does not give HUD the ability to provide statutory waivers even when there is a major disaster. NCSHA will raise these concerns with Congress and press for greater flexibility for HUD and HTF grantees in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact Jennifer Schwartz with questions.