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Notice

Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers: Revised Implementation of the HUD-VA Supportive Housing Program

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ACTION:

Notice.

SUMMARY:

This notice establishes the policies and procedures for the administration of tenant-based Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance under the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program administered by public housing agencies (PHAs) that partner with local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities. This notice provides new and clarifying guidance regarding certain types of verification documentation, addition of family members after the veteran is a participant in the HCV program, termination of assistance, portability moves within the same catchment area where both PHAs have received HUD-VASH vouchers, portability moves when case management is no longer required, reallocation of HUD-VASH vouchers, and Housing Quality Standards (HQS) initial inspections.

DATES:

Effective date: March 23, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Michael S. Dennis, Director, Office of Housing Voucher Programs, Office of Public Housing and Vouchers Programs, Office of Public and Indian Housing, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street SW., Room 4216, Washington, DC 20410-8000, telephone number 202-708-0477 (this is not a toll-free number). Individuals with speech or hearing impairments may access this number through TTY by calling the toll-free Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

II. Special Rules for the HUD-VASH Voucher Program

a. Family Eligibility and Selection

b. Termination of Assistance

c. Income Eligibility

d. Initial Term of the HCV

e. Initial Lease Term

f. Ineligible Housing

g. Mobility and Portability of HUD-VASH Vouchers

h. Case Management Requirements

i. Turnover of HUD-VASH Vouchers

j. Moving-to-Work (MTW) Agencies

k. Project-Based Assistance

l. Section Eight Management Assessment Program (SEMAP)

m. Reallocation of HUD-VASH Vouchers

n. HQS Initial Inspection

III. Reporting Requirements

I. Background

Since Fiscal Year (FY) 2008, HCV program funding has provided rental assistance under a supportive housing program for homeless veterans authorized by section 8(o)(19) of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (1937 Act) (42 U.S.C. 1437f(o)(19)). The initiative, known as the HUD-VASH program, was initially authorized by Division K, Title II, of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008 (Pub. L. 110-161, approved December 26, 2007) (“2008 Appropriation Act”) (see proviso (7) under the heading “Tenant-Based Rental Assistance”). Each annual HUD appropriation since FY 2008 has continued to authorize this program.[1] The HUD-VASH program combines HCV rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the VA through its community medical centers. Since implementation of the program, ongoing VA case management, health, and other supportive services have been made available to homeless veterans at more than 300 VA Medical Center (VAMC) supportive services sites and Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) across the nation. The HUD-VASH program is a key component of reducing homelessness among veterans outlined in the Administration's Federal Strategy to Prevent and End Homelessness.

The appropriation acts funding the HUD-VASH program provide that HUD is not required to distribute assistance competitively. Rather, these acts require that HUD-VASH funding be distributed to PHAs that partner with eligible VAMCs, or other entities as designated by the VA Secretary, and based on the geographical need for such assistance, as identified by the VA Secretary. The appropriation acts also provide that funding be distributed based on PHA administrative performance, and other factors as specified by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD Secretary) in consultation with the VA Secretary.

Based on this language, the allocation for HUD-VASH vouchers has been a collaborative, data-driven effort conducted by HUD's Offices of Community Planning and Development (CPD) and Public and Indian Housing (PIH), and the VA. The process relies primarily on three sets of data: (1) HUD's point-in-time data submitted by Continuums of Care; (2) VAMC data on contacts with homeless veterans; and (3) performance data from local PHAs and VAMCs. As noted, the VA, in consultation with HUD, has identified more than 300 VAMCs and CBOCs willing to participate in the program since 2008. There is at least one site in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

HUD, in consultation with the VA, and in consideration of a PHA's administrative performance, identified eligible PHAs located in the jurisdiction of the VAMCs or CBOCs and invited them to apply for HUD-VASH vouchers. The number of HUD-VASH vouchers awarded to each PHA was determined by HUD and the VA. Currently, between 25 and 35 rental vouchers have been awarded for each professional, full-time HUD-VASH case manager in the local VA facility. A PHA that participates in the HUD-VASH program must partner with its VAMC or CBOC. Additional information on program requirements and procedures may be found on HUD's Web site at www.HUD.gov.

II. Special Rules for the HUD-VASH Voucher Program

This section of the notice sets forth the design features of the HUD-VASH vouchers, including the eligibility of families, portability, case management, and the turnover of these vouchers. This notice replaces and revises the special rules published by HUD in a Federal Register notice on May 6, 2008 (73 FR 25026). The appropriations acts funding the HUD-VASH program authorize the HUD Secretary, in consultation with the VA Secretary, to waive, or specify alternative requirements for, any provision of any statute or regulation that the HUD Secretary administers in connection with the use of these funds (except for requirements related to fair housing, nondiscrimination, labor standards, and the environment), upon a finding by the Secretary that any such waivers or alternative requirements are necessary for the effective delivery and administration of such voucher assistance. Assistance made available for this program must, however, continue to remain available for homeless veterans upon turnover.

This notice outlines the waivers or alternative requirements determined by the HUD Secretary to be necessary for the effective delivery and administration of the HUD-VASH program. These waivers or alternative requirements are exceptions to the normal HCV requirements, which would otherwise govern the provision of HUD-VASH assistance. In addition, a PHA may request additional statutory or regulatory waivers that it determines are necessary for the effective delivery and administration of the program. These requests may be submitted to the HUD Secretary for review and decision through the HUD Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing.

HUD-VASH vouchers under this part are administered in accordance with the HCV tenant-based rental assistance regulations set forth at 24 CFR part 982. In the HCV program, the PHA pays monthly rental subsidies so that eligible families can afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing. HUD provides housing assistance funds to the PHA and funds the PHA to administer the program.

Under the HCV tenant-based program, families select and rent units that meet program housing quality standards (HQS). If the PHA approves a family's unit and tenancy, the PHA contracts with the owner to make rent subsidy payments (housing assistance payments) (HAP) directly to the owner on behalf of the family, on a monthly basis. The family enters into a lease with the owner and pays its share of the rent to the owner in accordance with the lease. The HAP contract between the PHA and the owner covers only a single unit and a specific assisted family. If the family moves out of the leased unit, the HAP contract with the owner terminates. The family may generally move to another unit with continued assistance, so long as the family is complying with program requirements.

Unless expressly herein, all regulatory requirements and HUD directives regarding the HCV tenant-based program are applicable to HUD-VASH vouchers, including the use of all HUD-required contracts and other forms. The PHA's local discretionary policies adopted in the PHA's written administrative plan apply to HUD-VASH vouchers, unless such local policy conflicts with the requirements of the HUD-VASH vouchers outlined herein.

PHAs are required to maintain records that allow for the easy identification of families receiving HUD-VASH vouchers. PHAs must identify these families in the Public and Indian Housing Information Center (PIC). This recordkeeping will help ensure, in accordance with appropriations renewal language, that HUD-VASH vouchers that are in use will remain available for homeless veterans upon turnover.

The alternative requirements established in this notice apply to all PHAs that administer HUD-VASH vouchers, including those that have not received an allocation of HUD-VASH vouchers, but which administer them as a receiving PHA under the portability feature of the HCV program.

This notice does not direct, provide for assistance or loan and mortgage insurance for, or otherwise govern or regulate, real property acquisition, disposition, leasing, rehabilitation, alteration, demolition or new construction, or establish, revise, or provide for standards for construction or construction materials, manufactured housing, or occupancy. Accordingly, under 24 CFR 50.19(c)(1), this notice is categorically excluded from environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321).

a. Family Eligibility and Selection

HUD-VASH-eligible families are homeless veterans and their families. The appropriations acts funding the HUD-VASH program authorize the HUD Secretary, in consultation with the VA Secretary, to waive, or specify alternative requirements for, any provision of any statute or regulation that the HUD Secretary administers in connection with the use of funds made upon a finding by the HUD Secretary that such waivers or alternatives are necessary for the effective administration and delivery of voucher assistance (except for requirements related to fair housing, nondiscrimination, labor standards, and the environment). The December 17, 2007, Explanatory Statement for the 2008 Appropriation Act states, “The Appropriations Committees expect that these vouchers will be made available to all homeless veterans, including recently returning veterans” (153 Cong. Rec. H16514 (daily ed., Dec. 17, 2007)).

Section 8(o)(19) of the 1937 Act, which requires homeless veterans to have chronic mental illnesses or chronic substance-use disorders with required treatment of these disorders, as a condition of receipt of HUD-VASH assistance, is waived.

VA HUD-VASH case managers will refer HUD-VASH-eligible families to the PHA for the issuance of vouchers. The PHA must accept referrals from their VA partner. Written documentation of these referrals must be maintained in the tenant file by the PHA. Therefore, the PHA will not have the authority to maintain a waiting list or apply local preferences for HUD-VASH vouchers. Accordingly, section 8(o)(6)(A) of the 1937 Act (42 U.S.C. 1437f(o)(6)(A)), in regard to preferences, is waived to provide for the effective administration of the program. In addition, 24 CFR 982.202, 982.204, and 982.207, relating to applicant selection from the waiting list and local preferences, are also waived. Sections 982.203, 982.205, and 982.206 regarding special admissions, cross-listing of the waiting list, and opening and closing the waiting list do not apply to the HUD-VASH program.

VA HUD-VASH case managers will screen all families in accordance with VA screening criteria. By agreeing to administer the HUD-VASH program, the PHA is relinquishing its authority to determine the eligibility of families in accordance with regular HCV program rules and PHA policies. Specifically, under the HUD-VASH program, PHAs will not have the authority to screen any potentially eligible family members or deny assistance for any grounds permitted under 24 CFR 982.552 (broad denial for violations of HCV program requirements) and 982.553 (specific denial for criminals and alcohol abusers), with one exception: PHAs will still be required to prohibit admission if any member of the household is subject to a lifetime registration requirement under a state sex offender registration program. However, unless the family member that is subject to lifetime registration under a state sex offender registration program is the homeless veteran (which would result in denial of admission for the family), the remaining family members may be served if the family agrees to remove the sex offender from its family composition. Accordingly, the Department is exercising its authority to waive 42 U.S.C. 1437d(s); 42 U.S.C. 13661(a), (b), and (c); and 24 CFR 982.552 and 982.553 in regard to denial of admission, with the exception of § 982.553(a)(2)(i), which requires denial of admission to certain registered sex offenders.

When adding a family member after the HUD-VASH family has been admitted to the program, the rules of § 982.551(h)(2) apply. Other than the birth, adoption, or court-awarded custody of a child, the PHA must approve additional family members and may apply its regular screening criteria in doing so.

In regard to verifying Social Security numbers (SSNs) for homeless veterans and their family members, an original document issued by a federal or state government agency, which contains the name of the individual and the SSN of the individual along with other identifying information of the individual, is acceptable in accordance with 24 CFR part 5.216(g). In the case of the homeless veteran, the PHA must accept the Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty (DD-214) or the VA-verified Application for Health Benefits (10-10EZ) as verification of SSN and cannot require the veteran to provide a SSN card. These documents must also be accepted for proof-of-age purposes in lieu of birth certificates or other PHA-required documentation. Please note that veterans are also issued photo identification cards by the VA. If such identification is required by the PHA, these cards must be accepted by the PHA in lieu of another type of government-issued photo identification. These cards may also be used to verify SSNs and date of birth.

Civil rights requirements cannot be waived. The HUD-VASH program is administered in accordance with applicable Fair Housing requirements. These include applicable authorities under 24 CFR 5.105(a) and 24 CFR 982.53 including, but not limited to, the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination Act. These requirements prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, age, or disability.

When HUD-VASH recipients include veterans with disabilities or family members with disabilities, HUD's reasonable accommodation standards requirements apply. These standards require PHAs to make a reasonable adjustment to rules, policies, practices, and procedures when it may be necessary in order to enable an applicant or resident with a disability to have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, the common areas of a dwelling, or participate in or access a recipient's programs and activities. These standards extends to various aspects of program implementation, including, for example, denial or termination of assistance, initial search term of the HCV, initial lease term, and informal reviews and hearings.

b. Termination of Assistance

HUD has not established any alternative requirements for termination of assistance for HUD-VASH participants. However, prior to terminating HUD-VASH participants, HUD strongly encourages PHAs to exercise their discretion under 24 CFR 982.552(c)(2) and consider all relevant circumstances of the specific case, including granting reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities in accordance with 24 CFR part 8, as well as including the role of the case manager and the impact that ongoing case management services can have on mitigating the conditions that led to the potential termination, prior to determining whether to terminate assistance. In addition, a HUD-VASH participant family must not be terminated after admission, for a circumstance or activity that occurred before admission and was known to the PHA, but could not be considered at the time of admission due to the HUD-VASH Operating Requirements. The PHA can terminate the family's assistance only for program violations that occur after the family's admission to the voucher program.

c. Income Eligibility

The PHA must determine income eligibility for HUD-VASH families in accordance with 24 CFR 982.201. Income-targeting requirements of section 16(b) of the 1937 Act, as well as 24 CFR 982.201(b)(2), do not apply for HUD-VASH families so that participating PHAs can effectively serve the eligible population specified in the various appropriations acts; that is, homeless veterans, who may be at a variety of income levels, including low-income. The PHA may, however, choose to include the admission of extremely low-income HUD-VASH families in its income targeting numbers for the fiscal year in which these families are admitted. In conformance with normal program rules, PHAs may not deny admission to a family with zero income and must consider hardship circumstances before charging a minimum rent in accordance with 24 CFR 5.630(b).

d. Initial Term of the HCV

Recognizing the challenges that HUD-VASH participants may face with their housing search, HUD-VASH vouchers must have an initial search term of at least 120 days. Therefore, § 982.303(a), which states that the initial search term must be at least 60 days, shall not apply, since the initial term must be at least 120 days. Any extensions, suspensions, and progress reports will remain under the policies in the PHA's administrative plan, but will apply after the minimum 120-day initial search term.

e. Initial Lease Term

Under the HCV program, voucher participants must enter into an initial lease with the owner for one year, unless a shorter term would improve housing opportunities for the tenant and the shorter term is a prevailing market practice. To provide a greater range of housing opportunities for HUD-VASH voucher holders, initial leases may be less than 12 months; therefore, both section 8(o)(7)(A) of the 1937 Act (42 U.S.C. 1437f(o)(7)(A)) and 24 CFR 982.309(a)(2)(ii) are waived.

f. Ineligible Housing

HUD-VASH families will be permitted to live on the grounds of a VA facility in units developed to house homeless veterans. Therefore, 24 CFR 982.352(a)(5), which prohibits units on the physical grounds of a medical, mental, or similar public or private institution, is waived for that purpose only.

g. Mobility and Portability of HUD-VASH Vouchers

An eligible family that is issued a HUD-VASH voucher must receive case management services provided by the partnering VAMC or CBOC. Therefore, special mobility and portability procedures must be established. HUD-VASH participant families may reside only in those jurisdictional areas that are accessible to case management services as determined by VA HUD-VASH case managers at the partnering VAMC or CBOC. Since the case managers will be identifying homeless veterans eligible to participate in the HUD-VASH program, section 8(r)(1)(B)(i) of the 1937 Act (42 U.S.C. 1437f(r)(1(B)(i)), which restricts portability in cases where the family did not reside in the jurisdiction of the PHA at the time of application for HCV assistance, and 24 CFR 982.353(a), (b), and (c), which affects where a family can lease a unit with HCV assistance, do not apply. HUD may publish public housing notices from time to time to further explain portability requirements under the HUD-VASH program.

1. Portability Moves Within Same Catchment Area (or Area of Operation) Where Case Management Is Provided by the Initial PHA's Partnering VAMC or CBOC

If the family initially leases up, or moves, under portability provisions, but the initial PHA's partnering VAMC or CBOC will still be able to provide the necessary case management services due to the family's proximity to the partnering VAMC or CBOC, the receiving PHA must process the move in accordance with the portability procedures of 24 CFR 982.355. However, since the initial PHA must maintain records on all HUD-VASH families receiving case management services from its partnering VAMC or CBOC, receiving PHAs without a HUD-VASH program must bill the initial PHA. Therefore, 24 CFR 982.355(d), which gives the receiving PHA the option to absorb the family into its own HCV program or bill the initial PHA, is not applicable.

2. Portability Moves Within Same Catchment Area Where Both PHAs Have Received HUD-VASH Vouchers

The receiving PHA may bill the initial PHA or absorb the family into its own HUD-VASH program if the VAMC or CBOC providing the initial case management agrees to the absorption by the receiving PHA and the transfer of case management. The absorption will also entail the availability of a HUD-VASH voucher and case management provision by the receiving PHA's partnering VAMC or CBOC.

3. Portability Moves Where Receiving PHA Is Beyond Catchment Area

If a family wants to move to another jurisdiction where it will not be possible for the initial PHA's partnering VAMC or CBOC to provide case management services, the VAMC must first determine that the HUD-VASH family could be served by another VAMC or CBOC that is participating in this program, and the receiving PHA must have a HUD-VASH voucher available for this family. In these cases, the families must be absorbed by the receiving PHA either as a new admission (upon initial participation in the HUD-VASH program) or as a portability move-in (after an initial leasing in the initial PHA's jurisdiction). Upon absorption, the initial PHA's HUD-VASH voucher will be available to lease to a new HUD-VASH-eligible family, as determined by the partnering VAMC or CBOC, and the absorbed family will count toward the number of HUD-VASH slots awarded to the receiving PHA.

When the receiving PHA completes the form HUD-50058 under the scenarios above, the action type that must be recorded on line 2a is “1” for a new admission (a family that is new to the HCV program) or “4” for a portability move-in (a family that was previously leased up in the jurisdiction of the initial PHA). Whether the family is a new admission or a portability move-in, in section 12 of the HUD-50058 form, line 12d is always marked “Y.” In cases of portability where families move out of the catchment area of the initial PHA, line 12e must be 0, since the family must be absorbed, and line 12f must be left blank.

4. Portability Moves When Case Management Is No Longer Required

If the family no longer requires case management, there are no portability restrictions. Normal portability rules apply. When completing the HUD-50058, the family will continue to be coded “VASH” on line 2n unless the initial PHA issues the family a regular voucher, in which case the code will no longer apply.

h. Case Management Requirements

The VAMC or CBOC's responsibilities include: (1) The screening of homeless veterans to determine whether they meet the HUD-VASH program participation criteria established by the VA national office; (2) referrals of homeless veterans to the PHA; (3) providing appropriate treatment and supportive services to potential HUD-VASH program participants, if needed, prior to PHA issuance of rental vouchers; (4) providing housing search assistance to HUD-VASH participants with rental vouchers; (5) identifying the social service and medical needs of HUD-VASH participants and providing, or ensuring the provision of, regular ongoing case management, outpatient health services, hospitalization, and other supportive services as needed throughout the veterans' participation period; and (6) maintaining records and providing information for evaluation purposes, as required by HUD and the VA.

As a condition of receiving HCV rental assistance, a HUD-VASH-eligible family must receive the case management services noted above from the VAMC or CBOC. Therefore, a HUD-VASH participant family's HCV assistance must be terminated for failure to participate, without good cause, in case management as verified by the VAMC or CBOC. However, a VAMC or CBOC determination that the participant family no longer requires case management is not grounds for termination of assistance. In such a case, at its option, the PHA may offer the family continued HCV assistance through one of its regular vouchers, to free up the HUD-VASH voucher for another eligible family referred by the VAMC or CBOC. If the PHA has no voucher to offer, the family will retain its HUD-VASH voucher until such time as the PHA has an available voucher for the family. If the family no longer requires case management, there are no portability restrictions. Normal portability rules apply.

i. Turnover of HUD-VASH Vouchers

In accordance with the appropriations acts cited herein, upon turnover, HUD-VASH vouchers must be issued to eligible families as identified by the VAMC or CBOC, as noted above.

j. Moving-to-Work (MTW) Agencies

HUD-VASH vouchers must be administered in accordance with this notice and are not eligible for fungibility under a PHA's MTW agreements. HUD-VASH vouchers must be reported on separately from vouchers under the agency's MTW Agreement.

k. Project-Based Assistance

Although HUD-VASH vouchers are tenant-based rental assistance, HUD will consider, on a case-by-case basis, requests from the PHA (with the support of the applicable Director of the VAMC or Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN)) to project-base these vouchers in accordance with 24 CFR part 983. Public housing notices will be issued from time to time to address this issue.

l. Section Eight Management Assessment Program (SEMAP)

Since the leasing of HUD-VASH vouchers will be dependent on referrals from the VAMC or CBOC, the unit months and budget authority associated with these vouchers will not be included in the SEMAP leasing indicator. Therefore, 24 CFR 985.3(n)(1)(i) and (ii) are waived. However, utilization of these vouchers will be monitored separately through HUD systems.

m. Reallocation of HUD-VASH Vouchers

Under the appropriation acts cited herein, Congress has directed VA and HUD to allocate HUD-VASH vouchers based on geographical need for such assistance. In recognition that there may be changes and shifts in the population of homeless veterans over time, it may become necessary for HUD to reallocate HUD-VASH vouchers between PHAs regardless of the jurisdictional boundaries of the PHAs, in order to better address the current need of homeless veterans. In addition, HUD may reallocate vouchers due to poor performance by the PHA and/or the VAMC in serving this population, as evidenced by a lack of adequate referrals or inadequate voucher utilization rates after sufficient warning and cure time has been provided by HUD and/or the VA. Therefore, HUD-VASH vouchers may be reallocated among PHAs within the same state or between PHAs in different states based on the utilization of previously awarded HUD-VASH vouchers and current geographic need as determined by the VA and HUD.

n. HQS Initial Inspections

To expedite the leasing process, PHAs may pre-inspect available units that veterans may be interested in leasing, in order to maintain a pool of eligible units. If a HUD-VASH family selects a unit that passed a HQS inspection (without intervening occupancy) within 45 days of the date of the Request for Tenancy Approval (form HUD-52517), the unit may be approved, provided that it meets all other conditions under 24 CFR Section 982.305. However, the veteran must be free to select his/her unit and cannot be steered to these units.

III. Reporting Requirements

A new code (VASH) was established for use on line 2n of the Family Report (form HUD-50058), which indicates whether the family participates in “other special programs.” The information collection requested on HUD-50058 has been approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and given OMB control number 2577-0083. No person is required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with a collection of information subject to the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), unless that collection displays a currently valid OMB control number. This code must remain on the HUD-50058 for the duration of the HUD-VASH family's participation in the program. In addition, PHA that administers the HUD-VASH voucher on behalf of the family (regardless of whether the PHA has received an allocation of HUD-VASH vouchers) must enter and maintain this code on the HUD-50058.

Data will also be captured in the Voucher Management System on monthly leasing and expenditures.

For any additional systems reporting requirements that may be established, HUD will provide further guidance.

Dated: March 16, 2012.

Shaun Donovan,

Secretary.

Footnotes

1.  Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, (Pub. L. 111-8, approved March 11, 2009); Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (Pub. L. 111-117, approved December 16, 2009); the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (Pub. L. 112-10, approved April 15, 2011); and Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 (Pub. L. 112-55, approved November 18, 2011).

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[FR Doc. 2012-7081 Filed 3-22-12; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4210-67-P