HUD Cuts Red Tape to Help Speed Up Hurricane Recovery

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a package of 19 regulatory and administrative waivers aimed at helping communities to accelerate their recovery from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

While HUD granted a number of individual waivers after earlier disasters, HUD says the latest announcement is one of the largest collections of regulatory and administrative waivers ever issued by the department at one time.

"The recent storms are unprecedented so it makes sense that our response be unprecedented as well," says Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development Neal Rackleff. "We must be as flexible as we possibly can to help our state and local partners at a time they need our help the most."

The relief covers the following HUD programs:

  • The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program
  • HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) Program
  • Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) Program
  • Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Program.

To expedite the use of funds, HUD says that state and local partners can access a waiver through a new simplified notification process.

HUD's latest relief efforts

  • HUD is allowing an abbreviated public comment requirement on changes to a grantee's community redevelopment plans. Upon notification, HUD will reduce the customary 30-day comment period to seven days.
  • Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria destroyed communications networks, particularly in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Therefore, HUD is waiving the normal communication requirements and allowing these grantees to determine what constitutes reasonable notice and opportunity to comment.
  • The hurricanes also caused extensive damage and destruction to the housing stock in certain impacted areas. To accelerate construction, HUD is suspending normal rules to enable CDBG grantees to replace affordable housing units that were lost as a result of the hurricanes and flooding.
  • HUD will suspend a cap limiting CDBG expenditures for public services to 15 percent. HUD will temporarily allow CDBG grantees to pay for additional support services for individuals and families affected by the hurricanes. Services could include, but not be limited to, the provision of food, emergency shelter, case management and related services to help residents in declared-disaster areas until long-term recovery resources become available.

HUD offers more info online about the regulatory and administrative changes.

Ben Carson Confirmed as HUD Secretary

The U.S. Senate confirmed retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson to be the 17th secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in a 58 to 41 vote. A simple majority of 51 votes was needed for confirmation.

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), Carson took a number of positions that align with Realtors' market priorities in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee last month. Among these, he said all Americans should have an opportunity to own a home, and he called the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage one of the cornerstones of the American dream of homeownership.

He also said he wants to maintain a federal backstop in the secondary mortgage market while continuing to find ways to get more private insurers in the market. Right now, the bulk of mortgage-backed securities are backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored entities presently under federal conservatorship, and Ginnie Mae, the guarantor of the FHA and other federally insured home loans.

Carson, who grew up in public housing in Baltimore, said he wants to create partnerships that will help improve the lives of people living in underserved communities.

HUD has a fiscal year 2017 budget of $49 billion. It oversees the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), enforces federal fair housing laws, and provides financing for privately owned low- and moderate-income rental housing and tenant-based housing assistance. It also provides resources to the country's stock of public housing, and administers housing and community development grants to states and localities.

NAR President William Brown congratulated Carson on his confirmation and said he looks forward to working with the secretary on the many challenges facing real estate in the years ahead.

"We applaud Dr. Carson's commitment to the challenges that lie ahead," Brown says. "We know that the policies set in Washington can make a real difference for individual Americans as they work to realize the dream of homeownership for themselves. We're committed to helping them get there, which means addressing the hurdles buyers, current homeowners and investors face in the marketplace. Housing inventories are tight and mortgage credit is hard to come by, and at the same time far too many buyers are saddled with high rents and student debt that stand in the way of saving for a downpayment."

One of the first items NAR would like to see Carson address is the quarter-point reduction in FHA mortgage insurance premiums. In one of its last actions under President Obama, the FHA reduced the annual premium, saying the time is right because the insurance fund is healthy and it would save borrowers an average of $500 a year.

However, the Trump administration suspended the decrease, and Carson, at his confirmation hearing, said he supported the suspension while he determines whether to go forward with it.