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What's Up at HUD This Week in Region IX?

February 3, 2009

What's New in Region IX February 3, 2009

The boss is in...Shaun Donovan was sworn in as the new Secretary of HUD on January 26, 2009, and immediately dived into the stack of issues awaiting his decision.

Less than a week later, President Obama announced he is nominating Ron Sims to serve as Deputy Secretary of HUD. The press release is here.

In Region IX, on January 20, 2009, Caroline H. Krewson, Deputy Regional Director, became the senior regional official, pending the appointment by the White House of a Regional Director.

Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) update...This week, we announced another round of approvals for NSP grants in Arizona, California, and Nevada. There remain a handful of submissions waiting for approval, and they should come shortly.

  • Nevada received approval for a total of $46,267,554

  • California received approval for $59,977,897

  • Arizona received approval for $41,372,961

Homeless grants will be announced shortly, and we will send out an email alert as soon as we get the final sign-off.

The New Year is kicking us into high gear, with a new Administration, and so there's quite a bit going on in our field offices. Let's see what we can pull out of the file for you folks.

First, here are some upcoming items:

On February 6-8, the 2009 Arizona StandDown will focus on services for Arizona's homeless veterans. HUD has been committed to and remains strongly involved in this effort.

On February 9, the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity staff will serve on a panel at the Aging Services of California's (ASC) 2009 Public Policy Conference. ASC, formerly known as California Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, represents the interests of more than 400 state developers, owners, and managers of senior housing. The panel will focus on the applicability of Section 504 requirements to subsidized senior housing.

On February 11, Eduardo Cabrera, Interagency Homeless Coordinator, will convene a meeting of the Federal Regional Council on Homelessness to discuss interagency actions, in order to facilitate stronger coordination.

On February 11-12, Enterprise Income Verification (EIV) training will be shown via webcast from Headquarters. PHAs from Southern California may view it at the Los Angeles Office, and PHAs in Arizona may view it at the Phoenix Office.

On February 18-19, the eight San Diego region Public Housing Authorities (includes Imperial County) will hold a roundtable with HUD's Public Housing Hub Director. On February 18, there will be a workshop to train staff on Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership programs.

Local updates: Reno's Field Office Director and staff met with representatives from the Reno Area Alliance for the Homeless to discuss McKinney Program issues and overall community issues. Fresno's Field Office participated in and helped organize workshops with the San Francisco Federal Reserve on property acquisition and disposition under NSP. Sacramento's Field Office Director spoke to the Sacramento County Interagency Council and Policy Board to End Homelessness at their annual luncheon regarding trends in the 10-year Plan's implementation. The Regional Homeless Coordinator spoke at an event sponsored by LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. This event marked the one-year anniversary of Project 50, a program to move the 50 most vulnerable and chronically homeless individuals on Skid Row into housing. Tucson's Field Office Director and the Regional Disaster Coordinator convened a meeting with key disaster preparedness partners in Southern Arizona. The Field Office Director was asked to represent the area in a new state-wide disaster task force. Phoenix's Field Office Director and the Regional Disaster Coordinator met with the state Department of Emergency Services which is creating a task force on housing issues in disaster planning. HUD was asked to become a task force member. San Diego's Field Office Director participated in a meeting of the Federal Regional Council's Border Committee which is identifying opportunities to assist Imperial Valley communities.

Heads up: some emerging trends of note.

Los Angeles' Asian small business owners are taking a double hit as the home equity declines causes a crisis in capitalization of businesses already surviving on a relatively thin margin. A greater dependence on cash-flow, concurrent with a general drop in consumer spending, has caused a marked crisis among small businesses in ethnic communities. The resulting business closures then perpetuate further foreclosures, as families lose their main source of income. HUD joined with the Small Business Administration and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in a meeting also hosted by the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Small Business Program (Los Angeles). One of the issues discussed was the Federal Reserve Board of Governor's finding that many API small businesses are financed by equity in the owners' homes. HUD will explore ways of pairing foreclosure counseling outreach centers with business counseling programs.

Northern Nevada is looking at FHA's Good Neighbor $1 Home Program and the Single Family Housing Neighborhood Revitalization Area Designation to deal with the increase in foreclosed properties. The Reno Housing Authority (RHA), along with the cities of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County, is involved. HUD's Field Office Director met to discuss acquiring HUD-owned homes. The RHA, already approved to act on behalf of Reno and Sparks, is seeking to act as the principal agent in acquiring available properties in unincorporated Washoe County.

Residential Energy Efficiency a Priority in Stimulus Bills. Versions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment bills voted on in the House and now in the Senate include substantive provisions bolstering energy efficiency in public housing and HUD-assisted housing, including a competitive allocation to PHAs for energy efficiency improvements as part of the Public Housing Capital Fund and a new Section 8 Assisted Housing Energy Retrofit Program targeted at reducing the carbon footprint and utility bills for residents in HUD-assisted housing. Additionally, the American Recovery and Reinvestment bills propose additional funding for weatherization assistance, and the recently-enacted Energy Efficiency Block Grants will benefit low income households and other HUD stakeholders in developing local energy programs and making investments in energy efficiency and renewable technologies.

Earned Income Tax Credit Deadline Looms. HUD partners, including public housing agencies and assisted-housing owners and managers, should move as quickly as possible to alert and inform low and moderate income working families about the Earned Income Tax Credit Program that can put some much-needed dollars into their pockets. This Program is especially important now for families that worked in 2008 but have had their work cut back or jobs eliminated. Contact your local IRS office for information. AARP also often makes seniors available as volunteers to help families fill out the forms. The HUD Las Vegas Office and several other field offices have been heavily involved in this effort in the past, and they report this program can make a world of difference for these families. Do it now!

California Leads the Nation in FHA Insured Loans. This increase in FHA-insured loans is partly because the FHA limit increased and also because home prices have declined. However, the result is that the FHA green eyeshade folks tell us that in California, sales of homes with prices at or below the FHA limit nearly doubled from a year earlier. HUD operates its programs through four Homeownership Centers, and in our region, the Santa Ana Homeownership Center serves all of Regions 9, 10, and more. They report from their Center that the FHA Secure program, which ran for about 15 months and ended on December 31, 2008, helped nearly 160,000 families stay in their homes. Nationwide, some 576,100 homeowners used the program. Most families were refinancing from non-FHA loans, and the overwhelming majority weren't homeowners facing foreclosure. HUD-owned homes, called "REO's" (Real Estate Owned) in HUD language, grew by a high percentage; however, they still represented just 1,611 homes at the end of December. It is important to note that the number is increasing, and the homes are staying in our inventory longer than before.

Other factoids from the breakout: California now ranks number one in the nation for new FHA loans, with nearly 38,000 in the last three months of 2008. That's particularly notable, because although December is typically a slow month for loans, in 2008, FHA loans actually increased over the prior month. California also leads in jumbo loans, those over the old limit of $362,790.

We have a question for you. In years gone by, HUD conducted workshops to help small businesses learn how to obtain contracts from HUD and the entities we fund, i.e., public housing agencies, assisted housing developments, etc. We haven't done one in some time, and we have been getting more inquiries now that small businesses are challenged in this economy. If we restart these workshops, most likely it would be in communities where we have one of our ten field offices in California, Arizona, Hawaii or Nevada. Are you folks hearing the same thing? Would this be helpful in your work, and if we do have a workshop, would you participate with information about your agency or HUD-funded program contracting needs? Let us know.

For further information regarding any of these articles, please contact the Region IX Supervisory Public Affairs Officer, Larry Bush.

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