Envisioning One Affordable Housing Program

I have a vision for affordable housing that one day our country will have a single affordable housing program: one program, one set of rules, one agency monitoring the program itself. A tremendous amount of work must take place before this vision would become a reality, but we are a step closer to addressing many of the issues that stand in its way.

One positive is that today’s economic reality is forcing all of us to look for ways to save money by addressing inefficiencies within the existing affordable housing programs. We’ve been aware that these issues need to be addressed, and now the current harsh economic environment is forcing attention on them.

In July, the Obama administration invited affordable housing stakeholders to a meeting at the White House to announce two pilot programs addressing some of these inefficiencies, as well as identifying several other pilots that, hopefully, will also become a reality in the near future. I had the privilege of being invited to represent RealPage and our affordable housing clients. During the meeting we were presented with the findings of the Rental Policy Working Group and given the opportunity to voice our opinions on the group’s initiatives.

The first proposal is a pilot program to reduce physical inspections to one federally sponsored visit to each property, with standard sampling size, intervals and inspector qualifications (and using REAC UPCS as the initial standard). Led by USDA-Rural Development, the pilot will be implemented in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington. The pilot program would initially run for six months. The Obama administration said it believes this change will save the government $440,000 and will save private parties up to $18 million in the first year of the pilot. The administration also believes that if the pilot is successful, nationwide implementation could take place as quickly as three months after the completion of the pilot.

The second proposal is a pilot program to improve and reduce subsidy layering reviews (SLRs) by requiring HUD and USDA-RD to enter into state-level memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with housing finance agencies (HFAs). The purpose of this pilot is to identify standard procedures for SLR delegation and information-sharing. The pilot would also be led by USDA-RD and be implemented in Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. The administration said it believes that a national roll-out could be possible within 12 months of a successful pilot. This initiative is expected to reduce developers’ risks and lead to fewer instances where seed capital or dependent third-party funding is lost because of subsidy layering delays or underwriting reviews.

Additional proposals discussed that are under consideration include:

•    Streamlining the definitions and use of income between federal government agencies and states entities such as HFAs;
•    Creating a single fair housing MOU for HUD, USDA, Treasury/IRS and the DOJ;
•    Harmonizing the audit exemption requirements for Section 515 and Section 8 properties;
•    Providing a standard form for financial statement submission and standard audit guidelines housing programs administered by HUD, USDA and Treasury/IRS;
•    Creating a single capital needs assessment template for HUD, USDA and Treasury/IRS;
•    Creating common energy efficiency standards for single and multifamily housing between the Department of Energy, HUD, USDA and Treasury/IRS;
•    Providing a single appraisal primer for affordable properties assisted by HUD, USDA and Treasury/IRS;
•    Aligning existing USDA-RD market study standards to conform to HUD Multifamily; and
•    Improving interagency access to HUD’s 2530/APPS system for owner default information.

I applaud the administration’s efforts, but in addition to saving time and money, we also must save our existing affordable housing, as owners may opt out of these programs as regulations (and lack of consistency) make management and ownership a hardship.

Make your voice heard and help with the efforts to preserve and improve our affordable housing programs.
For more information visit http://www.huduser.org/portal/aff_rental_hsg/rental_policy_wrkgrp.html

Gustavo Sapiurka is vice president and general manager of RealPage Inc., Affordable Housing. Previously, he was general manager of Domin-8 Enterprise Solution Affordable Housing Division and CEO of TCG Technologies LLC. For the past 24 years, Sapiurka has been very active in the affordable housing industry as a member of community-sponsored task forces dealing with automation issues and as an active member of many non-profit organizations.

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