PUBLIC NOTICE: COVID-19 Statutory and Regulatory Waivers for the Housing Choice Voucher Program

Posted 07/30/2020

SC State Housing Finance and Development Authority – Public Notice

Updated June 8, 2021

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, HUD published Notice PIH 2021-14 to restate and/or revise the COVID-19-related waivers and alternative requirements included in Notice PIH 2020-33, carry forward information on previously specified HUD actions, add new waivers and alternative requirements, and extend the period of availability of most waivers until December 31, 2021. The waivers provide administrative flexibilities and relief to Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. In order to continue to provide for the health, safety, and well-being of our staff and customers and to effectively administer our HCVP, SC Housing has adopted the following waivers and alternative requirements that have a direct impact on our customers:

HCVP Waiting List - Opening and Closing: Public Notice

Regulatory Authority: 24 CFR § 982.206(a)(2)

Sub-regulatory Guidance: Notice PIH 2012-34

Description: The HCV program regulations require that when a PHA opens its waiting list, the PHA must give public notice by publication in a local newspaper of general circulation and also by minority media and other suitable means. Recognizing the foreseeable difficulties in complying with this requirement in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, HUD is waiving this requirement and is providing an alternative requirement that the PHA may provide public notice in a voicemail message on its main or general information telephone number and through its website. PHAs must comply with applicable fair housing and other civil rights requirements when they provide public notice under this alternative requirement, including ensuring effective communication with persons with hearing, visual, and other communication-related disabilities.

Period of Availability: The period of availability ends on December 31, 2021.

SC Housing actions: When SC Housing choses to open the HCVP waiting list, we will provide at least two weeks advance notice on the department main phone line, (803-896-8888). SC Housing will also provide at least two weeks advance notice on the agency website (www.schousing.com).

Eligibility Determination - Income Verification

Regulatory Authority: 24 CFR § 982.201(e)

Sub-regulatory Guidance: Notice PIH 2018-18

Description: PHAs must determine whether an applicant family’s income exceeds the applicable income limit as established by HUD in the jurisdiction where the family wishes to lease a unit. While the verification hierarchy described in Notice PIH 2018-18 applies to income determinations for applicants, Enterprise Income Verification System (EIV) generally is not available for verifying income of applicants. 24 CFR § 982.201(e) requires that the PHA must receive information verifying that an applicant is eligible within the 60-day period before the PHA issues a voucher to the applicant. For verification purposes, Notice PIH 2018-18 states that third-party generated documents be dated within 60 days of the PHA’s request. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, HUD understands that documentation may be difficult to obtain and remains aware that PHAs are also facing challenges accessing and verifying some information necessary for eligibility determinations. HUD is waiving the third-party income verification requirements for applicants and, alternatively, will allow PHAs to consider self-certification as the highest form of income verification at admission.

Period of Availability: The period of availability ends on December 31, 2021.

SC Housing actions: SC Housing will require families to fully complete the Family Declaration at admission, attesting to reported income, assets, expenses and other factors which would affect an income eligibility determination. Applicants may provide third-party documentation which represents the applicant’s income within the 60-day period prior to admission or voucher issuance but is not dated within 60 days of the PHA’s request. Prior to admission, SC Housing will continue to use HUD’s EIV system to search for all household members using the Existing Tenant and Former Tenant Reports. The PHA must also use the EIV’s Debts Owed to PHAs and Terminations database. Within 90 days of admission SC Housing will review the EIV Income Report and the IVT Reports to confirm/validate family-reported income and resolve any income discrepancy with the family within 60 days of the EIV Income or IVT Report dates. The adoption of this waiver does not authorize any ineligible family to receive assistance under these programs. If SC Housing later determines that an ineligible family received assistance, steps will be taken to terminate that family from the program.

Eligibility Determination - Social Security Number and Citizenship Verification

Statutory Authority: 42 USC 1436a(d)(2)

Regulatory Authority: 24 CFR §§ 5.216(b)(2), (g), (h), 5.218, 5.508(b)(2)(ii), (b)(3)(ii), (g)

Sub-regulatory Guidance: Notice PIH 2012-10

Description: Applicants must disclose and document and PHAs must verify the social security numbers (SSN) of each applicant. A PHA may not admit an applicant until the required documentation is provided to verify the SSN of each household member. PHAs also must verify evidence of U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status for noncitizens claiming eligibility for assistance. Additionally, PHAs must verify each family member’s date of birth to verify identity and determine age and disability status per 24 CFR § 5.403, if claimed. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, HUD understands that documentation may be difficult to obtain, particularly for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and remains aware that PHAs are also facing challenges accessing and verifying some information necessary for eligibility determinations. To address these challenges, HUD is waiving the requirement to obtain and verify SSN documentation and documentation evidencing eligible noncitizen status before admitting applicants to the HCV and Public Housing programs.

Period of Availability: The period of availability ends on December 31, 2021.

SC Housing actions: SC Housing may accept self-certification of date of birth and disability status if a higher level of verification is not immediately available. Families must provide the required documentation within 90 days of admission to be eligible for continued assistance, pending verification. SC Housing will obtain a higher level of verification within 90 days of admission or verify the information in EIV. The adoption of this waiver does not authorize any ineligible family to receive assistance under these programs. If a PHA determines that an ineligible family received assistance, the PHA must take steps to terminate that family from the program.

Housing Quality Standards (HQS) Inspection Requirement – Biennial Inspections

Statutory Authority: Section 8(o)(D) of the USHA of 1937

Regulatory Authority: 24 CFR §§ 982.405(a), 983.103(d)

Description: The statute and the regulations require the PHA to inspect the unit not less often than biennially during the term of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract. HUD is waiving this requirement and is allowing PHAs to delay biennial inspections of units. The PHA may rely on the owner’s certification that the owner has no reasonable basis to have knowledge that life-threatening conditions exist in the unit(s) in question. At a minimum, the PHA must require this owner certification.

Period of Availability: The PHA must resume biennial inspections by December 31, 2021. The PHA must conduct all delayed biennial inspections from CY 2020 as soon as reasonably possible but no later than June 30, 2022 and must conduct all delayed biennial inspections from CY 2021 as soon as reasonably possible but no later than December 31, 2022.

SC Housing actions: SC Housing will require the landlord to sign and return the owner certification form that the owner has no reasonable basis to have knowledge that life-threatening conditions exist in unit or units in question instead of conducting an annual inspection. Beginning July 1, 2021, SC Housing will schedule and provide written notice to participants and landlords of the required inspections. Both parties are reminded of their requirement to continue to maintain the unit in accordance with HQS requirements.

HQS Interim Inspections (Also referred to as Special Inspections)

Statutory Authority: Section 8(o)(8)(F) of the USHA of 1937

Regulatory Authority: 24 CFR §§ 982.405(g), 983.103(e)

Description: The statute requires that upon notification to the PHA by a family or government official that the assisted unit does not comply with the HQS, the PHA must inspect the unit within 24 hours of when the PHA received the notification if the condition is life-threatening. 24 CFR 982.405(g) provides that if the reported condition is not life threatening, the PHA must inspect the unit within 15 days. The regulation further provides that in the event of extraordinary circumstances HUD may waive the 24-hour or the 15-day inspection requirement until such time as an inspection is feasible. HUD is waiving these requirements and establishing an alternative requirement for HCVP units. If the reported deficiency is life-threatening, the PHA must notify the owner of the reported life-threatening deficiency and that the owner must either correct the life-threatening deficiency within 24 hours of the PHA notification or provide documentation (e.g., text or email a photo to the PHA) that the reported deficiency does not exist. In the case of a reported non-life-threatening deficiency, the PHA must notify the owner of the reported deficiency within 30 days and the owner must either make the repair or document that the deficiency does not exist within 30 days of the PHA notification or any approved PHA extension.

Period of Availability: The period of availability ends on December 31, 2021. After December 31, 2021, the PHA must conduct the HQS inspection in accordance with the applicable time periods upon notification by a family or government official that the assisted unit does not comply with the HQS.

SC Housing actions: SC Housing will require the landlord to provide photo verification that the repair has been completed or that it did not exist. Failure to comply will result in the HAP being abated until the unit is in compliance with HQS unless it is determined the deficiency is tenant caused which will not result in abatement but will still require photo verification within the prescribed time frame.

HQS Quality Control Inspections

Regulatory Authority: 24 CFR § 982.405(b)

Description: The regulations require PHAs to conduct supervisory quality control inspections of a sampling of units under contract. HUD is waiving this regulatory requirement.

Period of Availability: The period of applicability ends on December 31, 2021.

SC Housing actions: SC Housing will reinstitute HQS QC inspections in conjunction with completing all FY2022 SEMAP requirements.

Housing Quality Standards; Space and Security

Regulatory Authority: § 982.401(d)

Description: The regulation establishes a minimum standard for adequate space for an HCVP assisted family. Specifically, it requires that each dwelling unit have at least 1 bedroom or living/sleeping room for each 2 persons. HUD is waiving this requirement for PHAs where the PHA wishes to assist a current participant that needs to add a member or members to the assisted household as a result of the COVID-19 emergency, and the additional family members would result in the unit not meeting the space and security standards. This provision does not apply to an initial or new lease. A participant must not enter into a new lease for a unit that does not comply with the space and security standards.

Period of availability: For any family occupying a unit that does not meet the space and security requirements pursuant to this waiver, the waiver will be in effect for the duration of the current lease term or one year from the date of the HUD notice (May 4, 2021), whichever period of time is longer.

SC Housing actions: SC Housing will follow-up with the family and landlord at least 30 days before the lease term ends to determine if a new lease will be offered or the one year date.

Administrative Plan

Regulatory Authority: 24 CFR § 982.54(a)

Description: The regulation requires that any revisions of the PHA’s administrative plan must be formally adopted by the PHA Board of Commissioners or other authorized PHA officials. Recognizing the likely foreseeable difficulties in complying with this requirement in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, HUD is waiving the requirement to allow the PHA administrative plan to be revised on a temporary basis without Board approval through September 30, 2021.

Period of Availability: The period of availability to informally adopt changes to the PHA administrative plan ends on September 30, 2021; the PHA must formally adopt such revisions no later than December 31, 2021.

SC Housing actions: SC Housing will seek formal board approval of any informally adopted revisions under this waiver authority no later than December 31, 2021. If not adopted by December 31, 2021, SC Housing will remove immediately all unapproved provisions from the administrative plan.

Term of Voucher - Extensions of Term

Regulatory Authority: 24 CFR § 982.303(b)(1)

Description: The regulation provides that at its discretion, the PHA may grant a family one or more extensions of the initial voucher term in accordance with the PHA policy as described in the PHA administrative plan. HUD is waiving the requirement that the extension(s) must be accordance with the PHA’s administrative plan in order to allow the PHA to provide extensions even though it has been unable to formally amend its policy in the administrative plan. In the absence of following the existing administrative plan for voucher term extensions, the PHA should ensure it handles such requests with consistency and in compliance with the PHA’s adopted interim standard.

Period of Availability: The period of availability ends on December 31, 2021.

SC Housing actions: SC Housing will consider additional extensions for vouchers through December 31, 2021

Absence from Unit

Regulatory Authority: 24 CFR § 982.312

Description: The regulation requires that a family may not be absent from the unit for a period of more than 180 consecutive calendar days for any reason. HUD is waiving this regulatory requirement to allow the PHA, at its discretion, to continue housing assistance payments and not terminate the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contract due to extenuating circumstances (e.g., hospitalization, extended stays at nursing homes, caring for family members). The PHA must maintain documentation in the tenant file which explains the extenuating circumstances that caused the extended absence.

Period of Availability: The period of availability for the PHA to choose to continue making HAP payments despite the family’s absence of more than 180 consecutive days ends on December 31, 2021. The PHA may not make payments beyond December 31, 2021, and the HAP contract will terminate on that date if the family is still absent from the unit.

SC Housing actions: SC Housing will document family absences and extend HAP through December 31, 2021. Assistance will end immediately on December 31, 2021 if a family is still absent from the unit on that date.

Automatic Termination of HAP contract

Regulatory Authority: 24 CFR § 982.455

Description: When an HCV family’s income increases to the extent that the housing assistance payment is reduced to $0, PHAs are required by this regulation to automatically terminate HAP contracts 180 days after the last housing assistance payment to the owner. In recognition that the COVID-19 emergency is creating economic and employment instability for many families, as well as situations where families may on a temporary basis be adding members whose additional income may result in a $0 HAP subsidy calculation, HUD is waiving this requirement. As an alternative requirement, the PHA, upon written notice to the owner and family, may extend the period of time following the last payment to the owner that triggers the automatic termination of the HAP contract. The extension beyond the normally applicable 180 days is determined by the PHA but may not extend beyond December 31, 2021.

Period of Availability: The period of availability for the extension ends December 31, 2021. The PHA may not extend the HAP contract beyond December 31, 2021.

SC Housing requirement: SC Housing provided written notice to all families and landlords that are currently in $0 HAP that the termination date has been extended to December 31, 2021. All families that enter $0 HAP status effective January 1, 2022 or later will be under the original 180 day requirement.

SEMAP – Section Eight Management Assessment Program

Regulatory Authority: 24 CFR § 985.105

Description: Part 985 sets out the requirements by which Section 8 tenant-based assistance programs are assessed. For PHAs that have a SEMAP score pending as of the date of this Notice, and for any PHA with a fiscal year ending on or before December 31, 2021, HUD will not issue a new SEMAP score unless the PHA requests a that new SEMAP score be issued. HUD will instead carry forward the most recent SEMAP score on record.

Period of Availability: HUD will carry forward the most recent SEMAP score on record for any PHAs with a fiscal year ending on or before December 31, 2021.

SC Housing actions: SC Housing will accept the most recent SEMAP score on record.

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