HUD Shifts Focus to Liberalization of Land Use Regs

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced that it is going to reverse some Obama-era policies related to integrating lower-income housing into wealthier neighborhoods and place more focus on promoting more affordable housing development overall.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, “HUD will begin holding stakeholder hearings on how to change the way it determines whether communities are enforcing the Fair Housing Act, which requires local governments to institute policies that help break down patterns of housing segregation. HUD stakeholders include nonprofit groups, academic researchers and private businesses.

But local officials in some communities said the process was costly and amounted to the federal government forcing them to put low-cost rental buildings in wealthier areas.”

So, instead of focusing its attention on the integration piece HUD will try to create incentives for local governments to liberalize land use policies and make it easier for developers to build more housing in general. From the WSJ article:

Policy makers have long puzzled over how to create incentives for cities and towns to build more housing. Local officials are often in a difficult political position because the loudest voices among their constituents tend to be those objecting to development. At the same time, federal and state governments have limited control over local zoning.

Mr. Carson (HUD Secretary Ben Carson) said the new rule would tie HUD grants, which many communities use to build roads, sewers, bridges and other infrastructure projects, to less restrictive zoning.

“I would incentivize people who really would like to get a nice juicy government grant” to take a look at their zoning codes, he said.

 

Best Screening Practices to Minimize Risk

Property Management Insider has a nice, 7-part list of the best screening practices to minimize risk. Here are just a couple:

2. Reduce subjective decision-making at the community level
Use automatic approvals based on your company’s rental criteria to simplify the move-in process and reduce individual decision-making, thereby reducing fair housing violation risk. Reserve manual approvals for borderline applicants and restrict the ability to perform them to authorized users…

4. Separate criteria for applicants and guarantors
Bad applicants should not be buried under exceptional guarantors. After all, the guarantor isn’t the one who’ll be living in your community…

Here’s a link to the full list, which also includes some tips about setting criteria customized for each community.

More on Reasonable Accommodation Requests for Animals

There’s a good post at the NAA blog about reasonable accommodations for animals, which as most of you know is a growing issue thanks to the increased use of emotional support animals.  One consequence is that apartment management companies are having to adopt more flexible policies regarding animals their residents want to have in their apartments. From the article:

Per U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines, a disabled resident should be given the opportunity to request any animal that reasonably affords such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy their dwelling. Owners are required to engage the resident in an interactive process in which the housing provider and the requester discuss the requester’s disability-related need for the accommodation and possible alternatives.

In years past, it seemed to be the status quo for apartment housing providers to adopt bright-line rules. These rules allowed for predictability in outcomes and restricted discretion among on-site staff to minimize the risk of fair housing discrimination complaints. While this used to be the case, now managers are expected to make decisions on a case-by-case basis depending on a resident’s unique set of needs and circumstances in accordance with the mandated interactive process.

The article contains a link to NAA’s Toolkit on Emotional Support Animals, and also references an upcoming webinar on the subject:

In an effort to continue outreach and education, NAA is hosting a webinar on this issue on Thursday, October 13 at 3 p.m. ET. NAA has enlisted the expertise of Katie Wrenn, Regional Training and Marketing Director at Milestone Management, to share the member perspective and her experiences in dealing with reasonable accommodation requests day-to-day. In addition to Ms. Wrenn’s expertise, Kirk Cullimore will discuss the forms that he was instrumental in getting approved by HUD and share lessons learned from his experience in litigating these cases throughout the investigative process.

*  Edited to add: Chris Loebsack with Loebsack & Brownlee, PLLC has graciously agreed to present a pre-trade show seminar, Emotional Support Animals and Reasonable Accommodation Requests, on October 25, 2016 from 4:30-5:30pm at the Greensboro Coliseum. Not only will you earn 1 CEC for attending, but you’ll have Chris available to answer any questions you may have on this hot topic. Register here.