The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has released the final rule that clarifies the portability regulations and requirements in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program and helps improve the processing of portability requests. Portability refers to a feature of the HCV program that allows an eligible family with a housing choice voucher to use that voucher to lease a unit anywhere in the U.S. where there is a public housing agency (PHA) operating an HCV program. The new Portability Rule will help increase administrative efficiencies by eliminating confusing and obscure regulatory language, and balancing the needs of PHA’s while increasing family choice.
HUD originally published the proposed rule in the Federal Register on March 28, 2012. Following a public comment process, publication of the final portability rule concludes the rulemaking process. It is expected that the clarity afforded by this final rule will improve the portability process, and that the rule will allow families to more easily search for and lease a rental unit in their desired location.
The Portability Rule provides clarification in the following areas:
►Family briefings: The final rule requires that all families be provided an explanation of potential housing opportunities in areas with low concentration of low-income families, not just housing in high-poverty census tracts. It also requires PHAs to explain how portability works to all families, not just those who are eligible to move under portability.
The final rule also requires information be provided on how portability may affect their assistance through rescreening, changes in subsidy standards and payment standards, and any other elements of the portability process which may affect the family’s assistance.
Additionally, the final rule requires that information about the factors the family should consider when determining where to lease a unit with voucher assistance be provided as part of the briefing only if HUD makes such information available to PHAs for distribution.
►List of landlords: The final rule retains the requirement to provide, as part of the information packet given to the family, a list of landlords known to the PHA who may be willing to lease a unit to the family. Additionally, it expands the current regulatory language by replacing the current reference to “other parties known to the PHA” for “other resources (such as newspapers, organizations and online search tools) known to the PHA.” The final rule further provides that the list of landlords or other resources covers areas outside of poverty or minority concentration.
►Administrative fees: The final rule changes the administrative fee structure so that the amount of administrative fees a receiving PHA may bill for a portable voucher cannot exceed 100 of its own administrative fee rate. Under the new administrative fee structure, the initial PHA continues to keep a percentage of the administrative fee, and the receiving PHA does not bill for an amount that is higher than its own administrative fee.
►Mandatory voucher suspension: The final rule requires temporarily pausing the voucher’s term when a family submits a request for tenancy approval to the PHA and restarting it when the PHA notifies the family in writing whether the request has been approved or denied. This provision applies to all families that are in the process of leasing a unit (not just families that are porting). Mandatory voucher suspension is intended to prevent the expiration of the family’s search time while the PHA performs the administrative tasks required for a new request for tenancy.
►Receiving PHA voucher expiration: The final rule grants families 30 additional calendar days from the expiration date of the initial voucher to cover the time it takes to complete the portability process.
►Family chooses receiving PHA: The final rule allows a family to choose the receiving PHA that will administer its voucher, if there is more than one PHA that manages an HCV program in the family’s new location. A family may request that the initial PHA chooses the receiving PHA for them, if that is their preference.