Legislative Initiatives

At the National Housing Conference 2017 Annual Policy Symposium on June 9, 2017, HUD Secretary Ben Carson delivered the keynote address and participated in a Q&A session with Chris Estes, President and CEO of NHC.  While much of the keynote address focused on homeownership issues, remarks made during the Q&A included such topics as the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, Housing First, veterans housing, rural housing, fair housing, and the Federal Housing Administration. 

With respect to RAD, the Secretary called it the “perfect example” to leverage funds to provide more affordable units through public private partnerships.  He called for the lifting of the RAD cap on units (currently 225,000 units), as he described the program as a “win win situation” in the context of spreading funds further in light of fiscal constraints.  In emphasizing “enhancing public private partnerships,” the Secretary specifically mentioned the use of low-income housing tax credits.   

A recording of the Secretary’s remarks can be found here.  Remarks relating to RAD can be found beginning at time stamp 12:42 and also at 21:47.

 

 

The new HUD administration has been pretty quiet on the regulatory front, with only a handful of regulations and notices issued since January. That may change soon. HUD is hard at work identifying regulatory changes that might be made to comply with Executive Order (EO) 13771, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.”  The EO requires that two regulations be eliminated for each new regulation issued and that the overall costs of new regulations, including repealed regulations, this year be zero. In February 2017, the Office of Management and Budget issued guidance for implementing the EO, and now HUD  seeks the public’s input into which regulations it could modify or eliminate.  Recommendations are due June 14, 2017.

Over the years, a number of groups and agencies have submitted recommendations to HUD for regulatory reform, and this is a good time to reconsider those proposals.  Since the request is for modifications to regulations, not statutes, recommendations should focus upon regulations and guidance that is not required by federal law.  Areas Ballard Spahr has been thinking about recommending changes include:

  • Better ways to implement prevailing wage rate requirements at mixed-use projects where the prevailing wages need not be paid for the full project;
  • Streamlining of the demolition/disposition process for public housing;
  • Modifications to site and neighborhood standards;
  • Modification of the public housing asset management rules;
  • Requirements for designation of public housing as elderly-only; and
  • Thoughtful modifications to affirmatively furthering fair housing requirements.

In an interview with U.S. News and World Reports on “The Future of Affordable Housing in the Trump Era,” Amy McClain, who leads Ballard Spahr’s government-assisted housing practice (and is a frequent Housing Plus blogger), cautions that while she doesn’t expect budget cuts to be as severe as those proposed, funding for affordable housing is under threat. Amy notes that the proposed cuts to public housing funds could undermine the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), which allows a public housing project to convert its subsidy to long-term Section 8 assistance and leverage debt and equity in order to finance the project’s rehabilitation or replacement. The post-conversion rents for RAD projects are based on the amount of public housing operating and capital funds allocated to the project pre-conversion. As Amy notes in the article, “If the public housing operating subsidy and the public housing capital fund get diminished [in the budget], then the rents are no longer viable to convert to the Section 8 platform.” Amy also emphasizes the role that affordable housing proponents can play in the budget debate. “It’s going to come down to what the advocacy groups do and the level of education for members of Congress to make sure everyone is aware of the benefit of programs and the impact that the cuts would have,” she says.

Read more about the proposed cuts to HUD’s budget here.

After legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act was pulled from the House floor last Friday, news headlines across the country began reporting that tax reform is next on the Trump Administration’s agenda. As noted in our prior blog post, tax reform that changes the corporate tax rate, the tax-exempt bonds program and the tax-credit programs will have significant impacts on the production of the affordable housing across the country.

In an effort to protect affordable housing programs, legislators have introduced amendments to the Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) that either (1) create savings to be reinvested in affordable housing programs or (2) expand the availability of housing tax credits and fix related technical issues.

The following bills were introduced in the past 60 days –

  1. The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 (S. 548) (the “Cantwell-Hatch bill”). According to The Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition, the bill builds upon prior bills (S. 2962 and S. 3237), also introduced by Sentor Maria Cantwell (D) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R), and includes “a new provision addressing planned foreclosures, a provision raising the cap to 30 percent from 20 percent on Difficult to Develop Areas (DDAs), additional criteria for community revitalization plans, a provision which codifies, rather than leaving up to Treasury regulations, the prohibition against any state QAP from including local approval or local contribution requirements, and other technical changes.” A section by section summary can be found here.
  2. Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 (H.R. 1661). The purpose of the bill, as reported in a press release issued by co-sponsor Representative Pat Tiberi (R), is to “make the financing of affordable housing more predictable and streamlined, facilitate housing credit development in challenging markets like rural and Native American communities, increase the housing credit’s ability to serve extremely low-income tenants, and support the preservation of existing affordable housing.” The bill is co-sponsored by Representative Richard Neal (D). A section by section summary can be found here.
  3. Common Sense Housing Investment Act of 2017 (H.R.948). The goal of the legislation, introduced by Representative Keith Ellison (D), is to expand the mortgage interest deduction to lower income homeowners and reinvest an estimated $241 billion in savings over 10 years into affordable housing. More information on the bill can be found here.

Bi-partisan support for these bills, especially S.548 and H.R. 1661, suggest that tax reform protecting housing tax credits is good policy. Monitoring the evolution of these bills; the President’s plan for tax reform and the industry’s response to anticipated changes in the IRC will be telling of the future affordable housing programs, especially those authorized under the IRC.

 

Last week, Ballard Spahr in conjunction with CSG Advisors hosted its 7th Annual Western Housing Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The Conference brought together a wide range of public and private housing professionals facilitating a dynamic conversation on current developments in government-assisted housing.

The Conference opened with a “Washington Update” – a discussion on housing policy under the Trump Administration. Panelists Emily Cadik, Director of Public Policy at Enterprise Community Partners, and Peter Lawrence, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations at Novogradac & Company LLP, brought extensive insight into the political priorities driving forthcoming changes to government-assisted housing programs.

Significant takeaways from the discussion included:

  • The concern over a predicted decrease in HUD’s budget by $6 million, as outlined by the Washington Post on March 8th. Since the panel occurred, the Trump administration’s budget blueprint for fiscal year 2018 budget was released. Housing Plus posted a blog providing an overview of the budget blueprint on March 16, 2017.
  • The elimination of one or more of the tax credit programs, private activity bonds and/or the reduction of the corporate tax rate through tax reform will have significant impacts on the availability of equity financing needed to at least sustain affordable housing development at its current levels.
  • An infrastructure bill that includes housing may be an opportunity to meet any deficits created by HUD budget cuts to the Public Housing Capital Fund and Community Development Block Grant programs.
  • The spending caps under the existing Budget Control Act also pose a threat to government-assisted housing programs, especially in light of the proposed increases in defense spending and the resulting offsets that would be needed from non-defense discretionary spending.
  • Stakeholders should continue to invite legislators and members of Congress to ribbon cuttings and site visits in their districts. These visits are critical in gaining Congressional support for government-assisted housing programs.

The second session of the Conference focused on lessons learned from implementing the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. Nicole Ferreira, Vice President for Development at the New York City Housing Authority, and Jenny Scanlin, Director of Development at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, each provided a case study from which they described the benefits and limitations of the program and the financial structures making each deal work. Beverly Rudman, Director of the Closing/Post Closing Department in HUD’s Office of Recapitalization, provided an update on the program and described particular challenges facing her office, which oversees the RAD program. The panel highlighted the following as effective tools for successfully underwriting a RAD deal and securing community and tenant buy-in: (1) Tenant Protection Vouchers, (2) the demolition and disposition process under Section 18 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, (3) seller take back financing from the Housing Authority and (4) federal and local redevelopment grants.

Panelists Tom Capp, Chief Operating Officer of Gorman & Company, C.J. Eisenbarth Hager, Director of Healthy Community Polices at Vitalyst Health Foundation, and Keon Montgomery, Housing Manager for the City of Phoenix Housing Department, then provided a local perspective on how private/public partnerships can be used to create sustaining change in communities. The panel emphasized the use of health studies in the predevelopment process to generate academic research on the specific needs of the impacted community and solicit funding from public and private partners to address those needs.

The last panel focused on the changes in the affordable housing finance market. Monty Childs, Director of Loan Origination and Structuring at Freddie Mac, John Ducey, Manager of Multifamily Affordable Housing-Credit at Fannie Mae, Sarah Garland, Senior Vice President at PNC Bank, Catalina Velma, Vice President of Public Housing at the National Equity Fund, and Cody Wilson, Director at Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, each provided a unique perspective on the impact of recent and prospective economic changes (e.g. tax reform, HUD budget cuts and rises in interest rates) on the equity, bond and lending markets, as well as the increased challenge in financing small and rural projects. The panel also discussed financing tools like Tax-Exempt Loans (Freddie Mac), Reduced Occupancy Affordable Rehab (ROAR) Execution (Fannie Mae) and FHA 221(d)(4) Loans (HUD), which have been found to address some of the challenges faced in the market.

A copy of the conference materials can be found here.

If you have any questions regarding the information above, or want more information on how to register for next year’s conference, please contact Jennifer Boehm at boehmj@ballarspahr.com.

 

The Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) released the Trump administration’s budget blueprint today, providing a general overview of the budget request it intends to present to Congress later this Spring.  As outlined, the blueprint calls for a 13.2% reduction through cutting over $6 billion in funding to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”).

The blueprint describes elements that together comprise reductions to HUD programs realized, in part, by eliminating the following programs:

  • the Community Development Block Grant (“CDBG”) program ($3 billion);
  • the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (“HOME”), Choice Neighborhood Initiative, and Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program (combined $1.1 billion reduction);
  • Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing ($35 million).

These cuts account for over $4 billion of the total $6 billion.  The remaining cuts are likely to be drawn, in part, from the public housing capital and operating funds as suggested by the leaked budget proposals obtained by The Washington Post last week.

The blueprint also proposes the elimination of the independent Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation and U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, as well as the elimination of the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund within the U.S. Treasury Department.

The OMB blueprint with regard to HUD states, “[t]he Budget also recognizes a greater role for State and local governments and the private sector to address community and economic development needs.” What is missing from this statement is that CDBG and HOME funds are disbursed through States and local governments.  Without these funds, the ability of State and local governments to meet the pressing needs of their communities are significantly hindered.

Keep in mind that the main budgetary piece of business before Congress will be (1) extending the continuing resolution of the FY 2017 budget set to expire April 28, 2017 or (2) finalizing adoption of a  Transportation, HUD FY17 appropriations bill.  The proposals in the budget blueprint will not come before Congress before then.

And, when Congress does consider an appropriations bill, it may initially consider the OMB budget blueprint, but the budget that will evolve through the Congressional process can look very different from the OMB proposals. Constituents have an opportunity to advocate to their Senators and Representatives the value of these programs for the people in their communities and the contributions these programs make to the economy.  At the end of the day, the final appropriations bill set out in the conference report developed by the House and Senate requires adoption by both chambers, with the Senate required to adopt it by three-fifths (or 60 votes), highlighting the need for bipartisan support.

Comments on the following HUD and housing related guidance are due this month.

  • HOTMA implementation for Section 8 Voucher Programs – Due March 20, 2017

On January 18, 2017, HUD issued a proposed rule to implement certain sections of the Housing Opportunities through Modernization Act of 2016 (HOTMA) that affect the tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) and Project-Based Voucher (PBV) programs. Among other changes, the proposed rule amends the definition of public housing authority (PHA) owned housing, and institutes new provisions regarding housing quality inspection requirements for both the HCV and PBV programs. HUD is seeking public comment on a variety of questions surrounding the implementation requirements and future changes of both programs.

Comments may be submitted to HUD  electronically at www.regulations.gov (Docket No. FR-5976-N-03) or by mail to the Regulations Division, Office of General Counsel, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street SW., Room 10276, Washington, DC 20410-0500.

  • Moving to Work (MTW) Demonstration Operations Notice – Due March 24, 2017

As noted in our previous blog post, HUD is soliciting comments to its Operations Notice for the expansion of the MTW Program. The full list of questions for which HUD seeks public comment is listed in Appendix C of the Notice. Comments can be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov (Docket No. FR-5994-N-01)  or by mail to the same address noted above.

  • DOJ Proposed Rule amending Section 504 Regulations – Due March 20, 2017

On January 19, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to revise its regulations at 28 CFR Part 42 that implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability in all programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. Key revisions include amending the interpretation of the applicable definition of  “disability”;  updating accessibility standards for new construction and alteration of buildings and other facilities; and editing various provisions and terminology to promote consistency with judicial decisions and the Americans with Disabilities Act and related amendments.

Comments may be submitted to DOJ (1) electronically through www.regulations.gov (Docket No. OAG 154); (2) by regular mail to Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 2885, Fairfax, VA 22031-0885; or (3) by overnight, courier, or hand delivery to Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 1425 New York Avenue NW., Suite 4055, Washington, DC 20005.

The following lists additional housing news our readers may have missed recently —

  • Dr. Ben Carson Confirmed as HUD Secretary

On March 2, 2017, Dr. Ben Carson was sworn in as the 17th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to  HUD’s press release, Secretary Carson intends to embark on a listening tour of various HUD field offices and communities throughout the country.

  • Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 introduced in U.S. Senate

In an effort to help reform the low-income housing tax credit, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 (S. 548), along with several other Democratic and Republican co-sponsors on March 7th. The bill includes and expands upon similar legislation introduced by the Senators last year (S. 2962 and S. 3237). Visit the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition’s S. 548 advocacy page for more in-depth summaries of the bill’s provisions and comparisons between the current bill and 2016 legislation. Interested persons can also track the bill’s progress at www.congress.gov.

  • Public Housing Authorities prevail in Operating Reserves Litigation

In late January, the United States Court of Federal Claims ruled in favor of approximately 350 public housing authorities on the merits of a motion for summary judgment against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Led by housing industry groups, the complaint alleged that HUD breached its Annual Contributions Contract with the PHAs for fiscal year 2012 when the formula used for budget calculations and allocations did not property follow HUD regulations and thus reduced the operating fund subsidies the PHAs were eligible for in that year. A full copy of the Court’s decision can be accessed here.  Plaintiffs’ attorneys were advised to file a status report in February 2017 to advise how the Court should proceed with the case.

HUD has issued a Federal Register Notice offering initial implementation guidance for the Housing Opportunities through Modernization Act of 2016 (HOTMA) (Pub. L. 114-201). The notice highlighted both the HOTMA provisions that are self-implementing or otherwise already in effect, and outlined certain key HOTMA provisions that will require further action by HUD.

In addition to the five self-implementing HOTMA provisions noted in our previous blog post, the following HOTMA provisions are also currently in effect due to prior HUD rulemaking or notices:

  • Section 402: Inclusion of Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) and Local Development Authorities in Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG)
  • Section 501: Inclusion of Disaster Housing Assistance Program in Certain Fraud and Abuse Prevention Measures
  • Section 502: Energy Efficiency Requirements under the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program
  • Section 701: Formula and Terms for Allocations to Prevent Homelessness for Individuals Living with HIV or AIDS

In addition to clarifying which HOTMA sections are immediately applicable, the notice also highlights guidance that PHAs and other housing providers can expect from HUD in the future. This guidance includes, but is not limited to, the following topics:

  • PHA discretion in applying different payment standards for family subsidy calculations when fair market rents have decreased
  • Improving coordination between PHAs and public child welfare agencies to carry out the Family Unification Program
  • Conditions and requirements for subawarding ESG funds to PHAs and local redevelopment authorities
  • Changes to the allocation formula for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program, and forthcoming HUD regulations on the reallocation of HOPWA funds to alternative grantees
  • Annual adjusted income caps for public housing tenancy, and regulations outlining subsidy calculations for over-income families remaining in their units
  • Funding Capital Fund Replacement Reserves, caps for capital improvements, plus accounting and reporting requirements for replacement reserve funds
  • Forthcoming Mortgagee Letter to establish specific percentages of owner-occupied units in FHA-insured condominiums

Part IV of the notice also discusses the type of implementation action HUD is considering for the HOTMA sections that require further rulemaking or guidance.  We will continue to monitor HOTMA’s implementation across various HUD programs.

Ballard Spahr is committed to facilitating and leading the conversation within the affordable housing community, which makes us thrilled to announce our Eleventh Annual National Housing Conference in Washington, D.C., from November 3 to 4. This two-day, complimentary event features engaging discussions, panel presentations, special insights, and networking opportunities with the key influences and power players of the affordable housing industry.

Day one is our Housing Authority Summit. Housing authority executives will join us to discuss the most critical issues and challenges they face and explore solutions to help push your housing authority into the future. Panels and roundtables will cover various topics, including property tax exemptions, strategic relationship development, financing strategies, fair housing, and RAD transactions. Registration for the Summit is limited to those in leadership roles at housing authorities; however we will curate blog content around the pertinent matters that will be covered. If you would like additional information on attending the Summit, please contact Jennifer Boehm.

Day two will feature our National Housing Symposium, an open event where our high-powered lineup of presenters will explore today’s housing market and look into the future, now that post-recession demand is driving exciting programs and initiatives. In addition to the popular Heard on the Hill discussion, panels will discuss the latest in RAD projects, fair housing problems, demographic trends, Year 15 issues, and multifamily housing bonds. Registration is free, and our detailed program description is available.

We are excited to provide an informative and collaborative forum for dialogue, exploration, and networking within an industry about which we feel so passionate. Though we will certainly blog about conference updates and insights, we hope you will join us in person!

On July 29, 2016, President Obama officially signed H.R. 3700- Housing Opportunities through Modernization Act of 2016 (“HOTMA”). Our previous blog post highlighted some of HOTMA’s most significant changes to the current housing choice voucher program. The Section 8 and public housing components of the bill will become effective upon the issuance of notice or other regulation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.