To expand housing options for families displaced by Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) announced that it is giving public housing agencies greater flexibility in calculating rent payments in areas experiencing increased demand for rental housing. This is one of several actions HUD is taking to cut red tape to help families who were forced from their homes and require alternative housing. HUD is allowing local housing agencies to increase a payment standard up to 120 percent of the published “Fair Market Rent” thereby giving low-income families more options to find available housing in tight rental markets.
“We understand that in the wake of a disaster like Sandy, available rental housing becomes increasingly difficult to find, especially for lower income families,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, who President Obama recently appointed to oversee long-term disaster redevelopment in the disaster region. “Simply by giving local housing authorities greater flexibility in calculating rental assistance to these families can make all the difference in finding a suitable home or not. This is just one more example of how the Obama Administration is cutting red tape to make our programs work better following a disaster.”
Local housing agencies use HUD’s annual Fair Market Rents (FMR) to determine how much rental subsidy low-income families are eligible for through HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program. Currently housing agencies are allowed to set this payment standard up to 110 percent of an area’s FMR. However, in Presidentially Declared Disaster Areas, housing agencies can request a waiver to temporarily establish a payment standard up to 120 percent of the current FMR.
For example, the FMR for a two-bedroom unit in Union County, N.J. is $1,202. Housing of this size in the area could rent for more or less than that amount, but under HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program the local housing authority can set a payment standard anywhere from 90 to 110 percent of the FMR. At the 110 percent payment standard, the maximum monthly rental assistance would be $1,322. However, under this special waiver of HUD regulatory requirements, housing agencies can increase the payment standard to 120 percent, which in this example, would mean the maximum monthly subsidy could increase to $1,442.
Families would continue to pay their required portion of the rent, typically 30 percent of adjusted monthly income, but because of the increase in the maximum subsidy available, the measure would allow displaced families to afford housing they would not normally be able to under the regular payment standard, thereby increasing the available supply of housing that these families could afford. The measure also prevents the displacement of HUD-assisted families where rents may be increasing significantly as the result of the loss of rental housing stock in the disaster areas.
HUD and other federal agencies are helping displaced families find alternative housing while their homes are repaired. The Federal Emergency Management’s Housing Portal consolidates rental resources from HUD, Department of Agriculture, Department of Veterans Affairs, private organizations, and the public to help families and individuals locate rental units in their area. HUD is also cutting red tape to help accelerate the re-housing of these families, including:
►Allowing senior housing providers the flexibility to open up vacant units to evacuees of Hurricane Sandy under the age of 55 without jeopardizing a community's qualification for certain legal exemptions under the Fair Housing Act.
►Relaxing federal regulations for dozens of ‘participating jurisdictions’ in Hurricane Sandy-impacted areas so they can quickly rehabilitate single-family housing and to use vacant rental units to quickly house displaced families. Read HUD’s waivers under the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME).