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CLPHA Legislative Director Gerard Holder (right) speaks with Secretary Ben Carson at HUD's first Stakeholder HUDdle.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude addressed representatives from housing groups, including CLPHA, during the agency’s first Stakeholder HUDdle event organized by HUD’s Office of Public Affairs on October 30. In his remarks, Secretary Carson specifically highlighted several public and affordable housing programs among the Department’s successes including RAD, MTW, and additional housing vouchers for homeless veterans and people with disabilities.
HUD leadership and staff across HUD’s departments were available to meet with attendees at the HUDdle.
The invitation-only event was the first in a series to facilitate better communication between HUD and its stakeholders. The next HUDdle, slated for the winter, will focus on policy initiatives and include time for discussions of areas of shared interest.
At the CLPHA Fall Meeting earlier this month, Bruce Katz, former Centennial Scholar at the Brookings Institution and founding Director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program,discussed how housing authorities, cities, and other stakeholders can seize the opportunity of the new Opportunity Zone tax incentives. Below is additional information and resources for CLPHA members on Opportunity Zones, including a CLPHA analysis of public housing developments in Opportunity Zones for members and a policy prospectus from Katz on how to best leverage these new tax incentives.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 established the new tax incentive, which will
“Allow any taxpayer to defer paying tax on capital gains from the sale of property if those gains are timely invested in Qualified Opportunity Funds, which in turn must invest 90% of its assets in businesses located or property used in a low-income community. If investors invest for ten years, they also pay no capital gains tax on the appreciation on that investment.”
Following the establishment of the tax incentives, U.S. governors designated more than 8,700 “Opportunity Zones” in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico; many overlap with locations where CLPHA members have public housing communities. Opportunity Zone incentives are unique because they rely on individual investment decisions instead of government distributions, can be utilized for all manner of projects (residential, commercial, industrial, or infrastructure), are not contingent upon pre-specified outcomes or metrics for success, and there is no cap to the amount of benefits investors can receive.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has released a notice of proposed rulemaking and notice of a public hearing on Investing in Qualified Opportunity Zones. There are two provisions related to housing in the proposed rule: a working capital safe harbor for the acquisition, construction, and rehabilitation of property for up to 31 months and also a provision stating that the basis attributable to land will not be taken into account when determining whether the building has been substantially improved. According to the rule, excluding the basis of land will help facilitate the repurposing of vacant buildings in Qualified Opportunity Zones.
CLPHA will be reviewing the proposed rule to understand how PHAs can take advantage of Opportunity Zones to further local housing goals. Comments on the notice are due December 28 and the public hearing will be held on January 10, 2019.
Resources for Members
CLPHA Analysis of Members in Opportunity Zones: Using the list of designated Qualified Opportunity Zones and HUD data on public housing buildings, CLPHA performed a comparison analysis to determine which public housing buildings are located in designated Opportunity Zones. We found that 57 CLPHA members had at least one public housing building in a qualified Opportunity Zone. In the attached spreadsheet, you can find a full list of properties, including census tract and geographic data, located in Opportunity Zones, as well as a quick-glance table that lists the housing authority and property development name. Click here to download CLPHA’s Analysis from our Dropbox.
Policy Brief – From Transactions to Transformation: How Cities Can Maximize Opportunities –Bruce Katz and Evan Weiss: This brief details a vision for the potential economic and social outcomes of the Opportunity Zone tax incentives and offers ten steps for cities to leverage local resources in order to take advantage of them. Download the brief from Drexel’s website.
Opportunity Fund Directory: The National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA) has released this new online resource that provides descriptions and contact information for publicly-announced Opportunity Funds. View the Directory on NCSHA’s website.
Opportunity Zone Explorer: Enterprise Community Partners has created this mapping tool to help those interested in opportunity zones determine which tracts in their regions have been designated and how they related to other federal programs. Use the Opportunity Zone Explorer on the Enterprise website.
On August 16, HUD published a new notice, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: Streamlining and Enhancements (the “Streamlining Notice”), soliciting public comments on amendments to the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH) regulations. HUD had previously published its final AFFH rule in 2015, but implementation of the rule and its various assessment tools has since been suspended. HUD is now interested in making amendments to the existing AFFH regulations, as the previous requirements were found by the agency to be ineffective and overly prescriptive.
Attached are CLPHA’s comments on the Streamlining Notice. Our primary points were threefold:
- An amended rule should clarify when a PHA has met, or will meet, its obligation to affirmatively further fair housing. Additionally, HUD should create safe harbor standards that provide protection from potential litigation for PHAs that make good faith efforts in their analysis of fair housing impediments.
- HUD should provide PHAs with funding and additional resources to support any data collection and assessment activities required under an amended AFFH rule.
- An amended AFFH rule, and any subsequent tools, should not disregard HUD and PHAs’ commitments to preserving safe, decent, affordable housing for existing communities.
To view our full comments, please click here. If you have any questions about our comments, the Streamlining Notice, or AFFH, please contact CLPHA Research & Policy Analyst Nicole Barrett, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 202-638-1300 ext. 112.
On October 12, HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing released a notice offering eligible PHAs the opportunity to apply for admission to the MTW program, as the first cohort under the expansion process. This notice follows two other MTW-related notices released for public comment earlier this week, the Operations Notice and the MTW Supplement notice.
Per the 2016 MTW Expansion statute, eligible PHAs must be high-performing, meet certain size and selection requirements, and represent geographic diversity across the country. Additionally, the expansion of MTW will include a significant research and evaluation component. Housing agencies will be added to the MTW demonstration as part of a cohort, and each cohort will be directed to enact a specific policy change subject to evaluation by HUD. HUD has created a research advisory committee, including members of HUD, housing experts, and existing MTW agencies, to determine which policy changes will be enacted and evaluated.
Following recommendations from the MTW Research Advisory Committee, the first cohort of 30 agencies will be required to study the overall impact of MTW flexibility. Additionally, the first cohort of agencies will be limited in size to PHAs with 1000 units or less combined Housing Choice Voucher and public housing units. Agencies interested in applying to the initial cohort will be chosen through a two-step selection process that is outlined in the Notice.
HUD senior staff has also indicated that the application for the second cohort, which will focus on rent reform, and allow medium- and large-sized agencies to apply, will be announced later this fall.
If you have any questions on this notice, the Operations Notice or MTW Supplement, or MTW expansion, please contact CLPHA Research & Policy Analyst Nicole Barrett, email@example.com, 202-638-1300 ext. 112.
Meriwether Place, a Vancouver Housing Authority community built with financing from the City of Vancouver's Affordable Housing Fund.
A strong partnership with local government and a wave of popular support from area residents are bolstering several of the Vancouver Housing Authority’s (VHA) newest projects for homeless and low-income families. Meriwether Place, which opened in August and includes 30 units with 23 dedicated to permanent supportive housing for formerly-homeless individuals experiencing mental health issues, and Caples Terrace, a 28-unit community for youths experiencing homelessness or aging out of foster care slated to open next summer, were both developed with awards from the City of Vancouver’s new Affordable Housing Fund.
“It’s a game-changer to have this fund available, especially with other sources of funds becoming more scarce,” said VHA Executive Director Roy Johnson in an interview for CLPHA’s Membership Spotlight. Established two years ago by a ballot measure that passed with the highest margin in the city’s history, Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Fund is financed annually through a property tax levy with a $6 million revenue cap.
Peggy Sheehan, the Community Development Grants Manager for the City of Vancouver who helped draft the ballot measure, joined Johnson for our interview. She attributed the ballot measure’s success to growing citywide awareness of homelessness and the need for local affordable housing solutions. “It was the right time to propose this measure,” said Sheehan, noting that passionate grassroots campaigning by the Council for the Homeless and the City of Vancouver’s outreach were crucial to its passage. The VHA, she said, was very informative at the beginning of the initiative’s road to the ballot, offering staff members’ expertise as the City initially considered how to draft the proposition.
Tax collection for the fund began in 2017 and will continue through 2023, at which point the City can place the levy on the ballot again. To distribute the funding, the City annually solicits applications and awards up to $6 million each year to projects that construct, transform, and protect low-income rental housing, as well as projects that tackle homelessness prevention through rental assistance and housing services. The City estimates that the Fund will positively impact nearly 330 households each year.
So far, the City of Vancouver has awarded VHA nearly $2.5 million towards construction costs and temporary rental assistance for the city’s highest-need populations, such as families with children, individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and individuals with behavioral health or substance abuse needs. As a public housing authority with a commitment to ending homelessness, VHA is uniquely suited to plan and execute projects that fulfill the City’s goals and intended uses for the Fund.
VHA is already utilizing crucial support from this city resource to address Vancouver voters’ concerns and help the city’s fight against homelessness. This August, VHA and its development partner Columbia Non-Profit Housing opened Meriwether Place, its first new property completed with help from the Fund. VHA’s $500,000 award from the Fund not only assisted the housing authority with upfront construction costs, but also enabled Meriwether Place to qualify for a property tax exemption. The new community, a 30-unit affordable apartment building for low-income individuals at or below 50% of Vancouver’s Area Median Income (AMI), includes 23 units of permanent supportive housing for formerly-homeless individuals experiencing mental health issues. Meriwether Place also houses social and behavioral services on the building’s first floor, an amenity that Johnson says fills an important need for residents and the community.
Rendering of Caples Terrace, a future VHA community constructed with help from Vancouver's Affordable Housing Fund.
Next year VHA will open Caples Terrace, a 28-unit community for youths experiencing homelessness or aging out of foster care. The Fund has provided $850,000 in construction costs to the project, roughly 10% of its estimated cost of nearly $8.1 million. The City of Vancouver has also awarded VHA $500,000 in construction costs for an additional unnamed mixed-income development expected to break ground in 2019.
Another important factor in VHA’s successful use of the new funds is their participation in HUD’s Moving to Work (MTW) Demonstration, which gives them additional flexibility. “MTW allows us to be nimbler in putting together projects that are at the forefront of need for the city,” said Johnson. Because of MTW, VHA was able to use $250,000 from the Fund for temporary rental assistance to homeless families with children on VHA’s wait list. He added that both the Meriwether Place and Caples Terrace projects utilize MTW benefits all the way through, from helping VHA establish rents to creating local partnerships and targeting specific populations.
Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Fund is part of larger statewide and national trends to support affordable housing through voter-endorsed taxes. Behind Seattle and Bellingham, Vancouver’s Fund was the third approved in Washington State, and one of at least 18 cities in the country in 2016 to vote in favor of new taxes or tax surcharges to support affordable housing. According to Michael Anderson, the Director of the Center for Community Change’s Housing Trust Fund Project, more and more voters are willing to tax themselves to advance solutions for affordable housing. There were at least 15 similar measures on local ballots during this week’s midterm elections.
So far, public opinion of the Fund and its results has been positive, noted Sheehan. The City estimates that it has already helped over 300 low-income individuals obtain housing, half of whom are at 20 percent AMI. Johnson and Sheehan are proud of the productive partnership between the City and VHA and will continue to work together to address homelessness in Vancouver. “You can accomplish a lot more with great collaborations and a city that’s receptive to development tools,” said Johnson.
VHA plans to apply every year for Affordable Housing Fund awards and Sheehan is looking forward to the applications. “VHA units are well-maintained and affordable forever, so why wouldn’t we continue to support them?” she said.
The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles alongside partner Meta Housing Corporation, opened El Segundo Apartments and 127th Street Apartments in Harbor Gateway, two new communities offering a combined 160 units of permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless families and individuals.
The District of Columbia Housing Authority, via its nonprofit arm Community Vision, Inc., also hosted its first-ever 5K run in October, raising more than $24,000 for the housing authority’s holiday season giving initiatives.
The District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) and partners cut the ribbon on the Residences at Hayes Street, a 150-unit affordable housing community constructed with help from a $2 million DCHA loan. DCHA will also provide nearly $241,000 annually in rent subsidies to residents.