Honolulu Field Office Newsletter
Summer 2004

Na Hana Ku Aloha
´┐ŻAchieving Through the Spirit of Aloha´┐Ż

Volume 6 Issue 4

Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc. Receives $150,000 HUD Grant

A Rural Housing and Economic Development Capacity Building Grant was awarded to Maui Economic Opportunity, Inc. (MEO) in an announcement by HUD former Secretary Alphonso Jackson on July 8. More than 100 rural communities in 36 states received funds to stimulate local economies and produce more affordable housing while boosting job growth. MEO will use the funds to build its organizational capacity to address the affordable housing crisis on Maui. Partners include PPEP Microbusiness and Housing Development Corporation and MEO Business Development Corporation.

Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant Helps Waianae Families Realize the American Dream

To commemorate June as National Homeownership Month, Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Michael Liu joined Micah Kane, Chairman of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands on June 16 to dedicate a homeownership project undertaken by the Consuelo Alger Foundation with funding from HUD, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle, and USDA Rural Development. The project represents a unique partnership of federal and state agencies working with a community-based nonprofit organization to provide comprehensive housing services to low-income Native Hawaiians.

A total of 32 single-family homes are being built on the Freitas Dairy site in Waianae Valley under a turnkey development program. Grant assistance is being provided under HUD's Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant program and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle. Mortgage financing is being provided through loans from USDA Rural Development and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. The Consuelo Alger Foundation is the project sponsor. Eight homes have been completed and two more are underway.

"The Bush Administration and former Secretary Alphonso Jackson are committed to helping Native Hawaiian families like these become homeowners," Liu said. "Homeownership strengthens families, strengthens communities, and is critical to the nation's economic health. The partnerships that were established to make this project a reality should serve as a model to other housing providers in Hawaii."

The Waianae project is one of several being developed with assistance from HUD's Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant Program. Funding for this program was initially appropriated by Congress in Federal Fiscal Year 2002 and represents the first commitment of Federal grant funds specifically for affordable housing on Hawaiian Home Lands. Funding amounts were $10 million in 2002 and $9.6 million in 2003. In addition, $9.5 million is available in 2004. The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, as the sole grantee, is undertaking several affordable housing activities in different Home Land communities ranging from site development, new housing construction, housing rehabilitation, and housing support services.

For more information on the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant Program, contact the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands at (808) 586-3840.

Assistant Secretary Michael Liu Briefs Section 8 Agencies on Flexible Voucher Program

Administrators of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program from Hawaii and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) met with Housing and Urban Development Assistant Secretary Michael Liu on June 17 to hear about changes proposed by the Bush Administration to the current Housing Choice Voucher Program for FY 2005.

The proposed Flexible Voucher Program (FVP) would free Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) to use voucher funding to support the maximum number of families making the transition from public assistance to self-reliance and work; and, in so doing, be able to serve more low-income families. PHAs would have both the flexibility and the right incentives to reach performance standards tied to the national purposes of the program.

The new approach also has the added benefit of being able to address the continued spiraling costs of the Section 8 Program. Both Congress and HUD are concerned that the national average cost per voucher has increased at a rate of more than double the average increase in the private rental market in each of the last two years. Escalating costs are in large part a symptom of unit-based funding with no incentives for PHAs to maximize participation within limited resources.

The Flexible Voucher Program (FVP) will allow PHAs to:

  • Set and adjust subsidies based on their own market rents rather than depend on HUD-determined rents;
  • Simplify and design tenant rent policies that will reduce errors, save money, create incentives to work, and allow them to serve more families;
  • Determine the appropriate mix of low-income families to serve in their community;
  • Serve as many families as they can within their funding amount, rather than being held to a specific number of vouchers;
  • Contract with owners to lease units selected by families contingent on the unit passing the housing quality standards within 60 days;
  • Allow PHAs to more easily understand how much funding they will get from the Congress and allow HUD and Congress to more accurately budget for and appropriate funds for the voucher program;
  • Allow PHAs to rely on a specified number of dollars to keep their voucher program viable and effective for years to come.

HUD serves over 14,700 families under the Housing Choice Voucher Program in Hawaii, Guam and CNMI.

For more information on the Flexible Voucher program, visit HUD's website.

Free Homebuyer Fairs Help Communities Prepare for Homeownership

Two Community Homebuyer Fairs were held in June thanks to a collaboration of industry partners. Hundreds of eager families were greeted at Kapalama Elementary School and the Filipino Community Center with an explanation of how the homebuying process works. They were then encouraged to sit with a mortgage lender to be pre-qualified for a mortgage and visit with representatives from various nonprofit and government organizations offering home buying resources. These homebuyer fairs offer a rare opportunity to access information on a wide array of programs and services including homebuyer education, credit counseling, downpayment programs, Hawaiian home lands, self-help housing, and more.

This year marks the fourth year that the Community Homebuyer Fairs have been conducted. The final homebuyer fair for Oahu will be held on Saturday, July 10 at the Windward Mall Center Stage from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. If anyone is interested in organizing a future homebuyer fair on the neighbor islands, please call Claudine Allen at 522-8175, extension 223.

Mahalo to our industry partners for helping to make the 2004 Community Homebuyer Fairs possible: City and County of Honolulu, Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Hawaii, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Hawaii Association of Mortgage Brokers, Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, Hawaii Credit Union League, Hawaii HomeOwnership Center, Honolulu Board of Realtors, Honolulu Habitat for Humanity, Housing and Community Development Corporation of Hawaii, Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, Mortgage Bankers Association of Hawaii, Nanakuli Housing Corporation, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Self-Help Housing Corporation of Hawaii, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

Homeownership and the American Dream
by Kathryn Kato, Family Self-Sufficiency Coordinator, Kauai County Housing Agency

Shanda Navarro, a single mother of two had just remarried in 1998. Shanda had been through some very rough times and had even been homeless at one point in time before applying for and receiving HUD Section 8 Rental Assistance. Now, as she and her husband, Pat, started a new life together, they dreamed of good jobs, saving money, and eventually, owning their own home. They knew buying a home would not be easy due to the rapidly rising cost of homes on Kauai, but both had skills; Shanda in cosmetology and Pat in upholstery, and both were willing to work hard.

In 1999, during a Section 8 Rental Assistance briefing, Shanda heard about the Kauai County Housing Section 8 Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program. The program is designed to help Section 8 participants work toward self-sufficiency. She joined the program and set to work with an FSS Coordinator setting goals and mapping out a course for her and Pat to achieve their goals.

Shanda passed her cosmetology board exams in 2000, and by 2001, she was licensed to practice cosmetology in Hawaii and began working part time. Then, she began having health problems, which would later result in surgery and limit the number of hours she would be able to work. Initially, Shanda was discouraged. However, together with her husband, she became even more determined. Shanda and Pat worked harder on budgeting and Pat worked on increasing his income with full time employment.

Their income began to increase, and little by little, money was placed into their FSS escrow account in the amount equal to the increase in their tenant's portion of their rent. They worked on improving their credit and paying off debts. They attended a Kauai County Housing Agency Home-Buyer Class and then joined the Housing Agency's Home-Buyers Club, to financially prepare for homeownership. By 2002, the 'American Dream' of homeownership was still illusive, but that would all change soon.

In 2002, the Kauai County Housing Agency began participating in the Home$tart Savings Program with the Bank of Hawaii and funded though the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle. The Home$tart program provided funds to match the Navarro's FSS escrow account funds. At the same time, the Kauai County Housing Agency became the first PHA in the State of Hawaii to adopt the Section 8 Homeownership Program into their Administrative Plan - aligning the program with the Housing Agency's other homeownership programs. In June of 2003, the first Section 8 Participant was able to purchase a home utilizing the Section 8 Homeownership Program. These events literally opened the doors of homeownership for the Navarro family.

Approximately one year later, the Navarros had accumulated $3,807.00 in their FSS escrow account and received matching funds from the Home$tart Program in the amount of $7,614.00. They were able to qualify for a conventional mortgage loan and make a down payment on a home. The Kauai County Housing Agency provided the remaining two elements needed to bring the Navarro's homeownership dream to fruition: The first, was an affordably-priced, 3-bedroom, 2-bath, single-family home in the Kilauea Estates Subdivision. The County had acquired Kilauea Estates through its resale restriction in a 49-unit affordable housing project that the County developed in partnership with a local non-profit housing developer, and a nearby resort developer. Development funding came from a special Congressional appropriation of HUD funds to help rebuild Kauai after the Hurricane Iniki natural disaster. The second, was the Housing Agency's Section 8 Homeownership Program which used the 'two-mortgage model' with the Navarro's housing assistance payments going to service a second mortgage loan financed from the Kauai County Housing Agency.

Shanda and Pat Navarro were at last able to realize their dream of homeownership on May 14, 2004, by closing the purchase of the Kilauea Estates property, just in time to celebrate National Homeownership Month in June. A few days later, the Narvarros expressed their gratitude to the Housing Agency staff that had helped them realize their dream with a celebration at their new home.

Down Payment Assistance for First-Time Homebuyers

The American Dream Down Payment Initiative (ADDI), announced in early June by HUD former Secretary Alphonso Jackson, is a new HUD program to promote homeownership for underserved households across the nation. The purpose is to assist low-income families to become first-time homebuyers with down payment and closing costs up to $10,000 or 6% of the purchase price of a home, whichever is greater. To be eligible, family income must not exceed 80% of area median income, which is: Honolulu ($65,700); Hawaii County ($51,000); Kauai County ($56,300); and Maui County ($60,700). Although the program in Hawaii is administered through each County housing agency, the funds will not be available to the Counties until September 2004.

In the mean time, the City and County of Honolulu is currently offering a Down Payment Loan Program. The program provides low-interest or zero interest loans to assist low- and moderate-income, first-time homebuyers meet the down payment and closing costs required to qualify for a mortgage loan. The maximum loan amount will be the lesser of $25,000 or 20% of the purchase price plus closing costs, with a loan term of 15 years.

The loan program and, eventually, the ADDI grant program (when it becomes available) require that eligible applicants, when applying for a mortgage loan, inform their mortgage lender that they are also applying for a down payment loan (or grant) through the City and County of Honolulu. City staff will work directly with the mortgage lender to obtain copies of the mortgage package. If the down payment assistance application is approved, the City will provide a commitment letter and will close the loan or grant simultaneously with closing of the mortgage.

If additional monies are required for down payment and closing costs, the City will also consider using both the loan and grant program together. Assistance is available on a first come, first serve basis. When the eligible applicant qualifies for a mortgage, then the City will qualify the applicant for a down payment loan or grant.

For more information about the Down Payment Loan Program and the ADDI grant program, contact the City and County of Honolulu Department of Community Services: Downtown Branch at 527-5907 or Kapolei Branch at 692-5809.

Housing in Hawaii: Solutions that Work
by Bernie Miranda, Community Housing Services Director, Hawaii Department of Health Adult Mental Health Division

In May 2004, the Adult Mental Health Division (AMHD) and the HUD Honolulu Field Office worked with the Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc. (TAC) to develop and deliver three, one-day training sessions. The training was designed to expand the knowledge and skills of case managers, advocates, consumers, service providers, including housing agencies and homeless providers on key issues related to helping people with disabilities locate and maintain safe, decent, and affordable housing.

The sessions began with Dr. Alan Radke, AMHD Medical Director, Mark Chandler, HUD Director of the Community Planning and Development Program, and Bernie Miranda, AMHD Housing Director emphasizing the need for creating partnerships to coordinate local and federal resources. The goal is to maximize the use of subsidized housing for persons with serious and persistent mental illness including the homeless. The training was a step forward in AMHD's efforts to leverage all available HUD resources. Leveraging these resources will require increased housing capacity and housing skills within the mental health system and the creation of successful partnerships between the housing and mental health systems in Hawaii.

Topics included: how to access Section 8 rent subsidies and other subsidized housing resources for people with disabilities, an introduction to housing planning process, the Fair Housing, Landlord/Tenant relationships, and AMHD programs such as Crisis and Housing Services.

The trainers were Ann O'Hara and Emily Cooper of TAC, Richard Knight and Jelani Madaraka of HUD and AMHD staff. Over 260 participants attended the training. An overwhelming majority of the participants indicated the workshop met or exceeded their expectations. Comments following the training praised the clear and concise delivery of housing information and the level and depth of housing and service knowledge that was provided.

Accommodating Persons with Mental Disabilities

All housing providers, whether they be landlords, owners, managers, associations of apartment owners, real estate agents, or residential lenders, are required by federal and state laws to provide reasonable accommodations for persons with both mental or physical disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, practices, or services. Such changes are required when they may be necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy housing, or housing related services. Reasonable accommodations can be requested when a person with a disability is applying for housing or financing, during the duration of residency, or at the termination of residency.

A person with disability can ask for a change in any rule, requirement, policy or procedure as long as it is necessary to afford him/her with an equal opportunity. Additionally, the requested change has to be connected to the person's disability. The law defines persons with a disability to include (1) individuals with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) individuals who are regarded as having such impairments; and (3) individuals with a record of such an impairment. The term "mental impairment" includes, but is not limited to, such diseases and conditions as autism, mental retardation, emotional illness, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy. The term "substantially limits" indicates that the limitation is "significant" or "to a large degree." And the term "major life activity" means those activities that are central importance to daily life, such as caring for one's self, learning, and speaking.

Providing persons with mental disabilities reasonable accommodations can be challenging. However, there are several things that a housing provider should keep in mind when dealing with persons with mental disabilities, which can make the task of providing reasonable accommodations easier and more effective.

First, the person with the mental disability must make a request for a reasonable accommodation. Whenever the person with the disability makes it clear to the housing provider that she is requesting an exception, change, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service because of her disability, this should be considered a request for a reasonable accommodation. The person does not need to use the words "reasonable accommodation." Also, there should be an explanation of the type of accommodation that is being requested. Especially in situations involving persons with mental disabilities when the need for accommodation is not readily apparent or is unknown to the housing provider, there should be some explanation of how the requested accommodation is related to the person's disability.

Second, an individual is not entitled to a reasonable accommodation unless she requests one. The request does not have to be made in writing or in any other particular manner or at a particular time. However, the request, made by the person with the disability or by someone on her behalf, must be made in such a way that a reasonable person would understand it to be a request for an exception, change, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service because of a disability.

Third, once a person makes a request for a reasonable accommodation that is based upon that person's disability, the housing provider can ask for proof that the person has in fact a disability. The housing provider has a right to ask for proof that shows the accommodation is related to the person's disability and for evidence that the accommodation is necessary. The types of evidence will vary depending upon the situation. A doctor, or another health care professional can provide the evidence, or by someone else who has knowledge, expertise, and experience concerning the person's disability. Housing providers cannot ask for a full copy of the person's medical history or for the specifics of the person's disability. They can only request information that shows that the person making the request has a disability, that the specific accommodation is related to the person's disability, and that the accommodation is necessary.

Each reasonable accommodation request needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Civil rights laws do not place a limit on the number of requests a person may make. Therefore, consideration must be given and a determination must be made for each time a request for a reasonable accommodation is made. A housing provider's decision to approve or deny a request should be based upon recent, objective, and credible evidence. Determinations based upon fear, speculation or stereotypes about a particular mental disability or persons with mental disabilities, are not allowed by civil rights laws.

More Native Hawaiians Eligible for FHA Financing

On June 15, 2004, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published an interim rule in the Federal Register amending regulations implementing Section 247 of the National Housing Act. The rule revises the definition of "native Hawaiian". The change becomes effective July 15, 2004.

Original lessees must still have no less than 50 percent blood quantum (be one-half Hawaiian). However, a lessee may now transfer his/her lease to a husband, wife, child or grandchild of the lessee who is at least 25 percent Hawaiian (one-quarter Hawaiian). The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands makes determination of native Hawaiian eligibility.

Since the inception of the Section 247 program in 1988, HUD has insured over 3,000 loans. This change will enable more native Hawaiians to obtain FHA mortgage insurance financing.

Calendar of Events

July 13-16, 2004. 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with check-in at 8:30 a.m. on day one. Keeping It Clean: HUD Environmental Compliance Requirements. Free. Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort and Spa. The workshop is presented by Training & Development Associates, Inc. and designed for HUD grantees.

July-August 2004. Second Series of Free, Statewide Grant Writing Trainings.
Hilo : July 26-27, 2004, 8:30-4:00 at Hilo Hawaiian Hotel (Mokuola Room)
Kona : July 29-30, 2004, 8:30-4:00 at King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel (Kamakahonu)
Kauai : August 2-3, 2004, 8:30-4:00 at Kauai Community College (Tech 114 )
Maui : August 9-10, 2004, 8:30-4:00 at Maui Community College (Ka'aike B,C, & D)
Honolulu : August 12-13, 2004, 8:30-4:00 at Kapiolani Community College (Ohia 118) -- FULL

Advanced Registration is required. Registration is on a first come, first serve basis (However, the Honolulu workshop is completely full). To register, send an email to ramona_mullahey@hud.gov. Required information for registration: name, organization, mailing address, phone number, email address. Limited to two people per organization. Confirmation of registration will be by email. Please bring confirmation to training workshop. For questions, contact: Ramona Mullahey at (808) 522-8185 ext. 249.

 
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