The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has released findings from the organization’s latest survey of state use of funding from the federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP). As of late September, of the approximately $25 billion made available by the federal government in the first tranche (ERA1) of emergency rental assistance, states have expended or obligated only $8.4 billion (33.7%).
While this is still indicative of weak performance by many states, the use of the funds has picked up in recent months. Grantees spent $550 million more in August than they did in July, while from June to July the increase was only $196 million.
A total of $46 billion has been provided in ERA1 and ERA2. Percent of the money spent by reporting period is as follows:
18 states spent less than 10% of their ERA1 allocations as of the end of August. Several of these did show progress in August, however, especially Florida and South Carolina. The states with the lowest allocations are -
The highest performing states are -
Despite noticeable improvement, the overall rate of spending remains too low. States like NJ, VA, and TX have proven that it is possible to get this money to the tenants and landlords who need it. The high performance of these and a few other states calls into question the poor performance of so many others.
In some cases, the fault lies with state legislatures or local governments. Congress is also partly to blame for a faulty allocation formula, which provided some grantees with more funding than needed. In some cases, landlords are refusing to participate in the program. But the primary reason for the lack of distribution is that many program administrators are not following clear Treasury guidance and are not willing to adopt proven best practices.
These poor performers often do little (if any) outreach, do not hire enough staff to process the applications, and have complex and burdensome application procedures. Very few of the slow spenders allow renters to self-attest eligibility, despite federal guidance that has urged it for months. Less than a third of programs allow assistance to go directly to tenants, despite it being permitted and critical to keeping residents housed when landlords refuse to participate. The best and fastest spending programs are doing all these things.
There are signs that some weaker performing states are taking steps to improve - South Carolina and Arkansas are examples. Hopefully, others will follow suit and this important resource will further improve the desperate housing situation that many tenants and landlords are facing.
House and Senate Add Homeless Students and Veterans as LIHTC Student Exception
On November 16, 2022, S. 5108 was introduced in the U.S. Senate, and H.R. 9313 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The title of the bill is "Housing for Homeless Students Act of 2022. If the bill becomes law, it will amend Section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code to qualify homeless youth and veterans who are full-time students for purposes of the low-income housing tax credit. The homeless student rule would have a look-back period of seven years prior to occupancy in a LIHTC project and the veteran exception would have a five-year look-back. In other words, if a full-time student was homeless at any point during the seven years preceding occupancy at a tax credit property, that person will not be considered a student for tax credit purposes. Likewise, if a veteran has been homeless at any time during the five years preceding occupancy at a tax credit property, that person will not be considered a student for tax credit purposes. The Senate bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee and the House Bill to the House Ways and Means Committee. There is no specific timeframe for the bill to become law and owners and managers of LIHTC properties should not change the current procedures being followed relative to student status.
2023 Income Limits Will Be Delayed
The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) normally publishes annual income limits in early April of each year. However, complications with calculating the limits due to COVID-19 will cause a delay in the release of the limits in 2023. According to HUD, the limits will be released on or about May 15, 2023. HUD normally uses American Community Survey (ACS) Data from three years prior to the income limit release to determine family median incomes and income limits. However, the Census Bureau did not release the 2020 one-year ACS data due to data collection difficulties because of the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, HUD will use 2021 ACS data to determine the 2023 median income and income limits for low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) properties. Why is this important? Owners of LIHTC properties will have to wait a little longer than usual to determine the income and rent levels available to them for 2023. While increases in income limits nationally are expected to be less than in prior years, most areas should still see some increase in limits, which will allow for a modest increase in rents in 2023.
Virginia Housing Looking for Compliance Staff
Virginia Housing (formerly Virginia Housing & Development Authority) has three positions open in Compliance & Asset Management. If interested, you may access the position descriptions at https://us63.dayforcehcm.com/CandidatePortal/en-US/VHDA. Virginia Housing (VH) is one of the premier Housing Finance Agencies in the nation and I have had the privilege of working with them for more than 40 years. The Agency provides an excellent work environment and has a comprehensive benefits program, including medical, dental, vision, and prescription drug coverage. VH also has both long- and short-term disability plans and various options for retirement plans. If you (or someone you know) are looking for an excellent opportunity on the public side of the affordable housing field, I encourage you to check out the open positions at VH and consider applying.
Rural Development Suspends Interim Recertification Requirements for COLA Recipients
On November 10, 2022, the Rural Development Service released an Unnumbered Letter granting a temporary exception to tenant recertification requirements. On October 13, 2022, the Social Security Administration announced there will be an 8.7% increase in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits in 2023. This will increase the average SS payment by more than $140 per month starting in January. The RD Section 515 program requires that tenant households be recertified at least annually or when household income changes by $100 or more per month. Since the increase would require recertifications for most Social Security recipients, the Agency is temporarily waiving the recertification requirement for tenants whose household income, regardless of income type, has increased by more than $100 but less than $200. Accordingly, during the Exception period, tenants will not be required to recertify unless their household income changes by $200 or more per month. This temporary waiver will be in place for all of 2023 and will expire on December 31, 2023. During the period of the waiver, tenant households must be recertified at least annually or whenever a change in household income of $200 or more per month occurs. The requirement that borrowers must recertify for changes of $50 per month if the tenant requests that such change be made, is still in effect. Keep in mind, the exception does not waive the requirement for the annual renewal certifications. Owners will receive a copy of this notice from RD. Once received, the notice must be posted in a conspicuous location at the property and a copy of the notice must be provided to all tenants.