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Admission and Occupancy FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are questions and answers on the final rule "Changes to the Admission and Occupancy Requirements in the Public Housing and Section 8 Housing Assistance Programs," published on March 29, 2000.

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III. Rent (24 CFR 960.253)

A. Choice of Rent
B. Flat Rent
C. Ceiling Rent

A. Choice of Rent (24 CFR 960.253)

Q1: Must a newly admitted tenant be given the choice of paying a flat or income-based rent?

A1. Yes, PHAs must offer new admissions a choice of paying a flat rent or income-based rent at the time of admission.

Q2: If a PHA does an interim change based on an increase in income (which does not qualify for an income disregard) that would result in the family paying an income-based rent that is higher than the flat rent, is the PHA required to give the family a choice in rent at that time?

A2: A PHA is only required to offer a family a choice of rent annually, except in financial hardship cases described in 960.253(f).

Q3: Can a family elect to pay the income-based rent at an annual reexamination if it exceeds the flat rent?

A3: Yes, it is the family’s choice.

Q4: How many times can a public housing family request to switch from a flat rent to an income-based rent because of hardship?

A4: A public housing family can request to switch from a flat rent to an income-based rent one time in between regular examination periods. The resident must then wait until the next reexamination to switch back to a flat rent.

B. Flat Rents ( 24 CFR 960.253(d))

Q1: What are flat rents based on?

A1: The flat rent is based on the market rent charged for comparable units in the private unassisted rental market. It is equal to the estimated rent for which the PHA could promptly lease the public housing unit after preparation for occupancy.

Q2. What must a PHA consider in determining flat rents?

A2. The PHA must use a reasonable method to determine the flat rent for a unit. To determine the flat rent, the PHA must consider the location, quality, size, unit type, and age of the unit, as well as any amenities, housing services, maintenance, and utilities provided by the PHA.

Q3: When a family chooses the flat rent, is the utility allowance then subtracted from the flat rent to calculate the rent paid by the family? Or is the rent just the flat rent?

A3: A flat rent is just that - a flat rent. There is no consideration of a utility allowance for a family electing to pay a flat rent. The flat rent must be based on a comparable unit as discussed in Q2/A2. Therefore, when considering comparable costs , the PHA must consider utility costs. Example: if a PHA is using a comparable unit that rents for $400 and the tenant in that unit is expected to pay utilities (that average $50/month), then the PHA should use $450 as the flat rent for if its units assuming its rent includes utilities.

Q4: May a PHA use the imputed debt service figures previously established by HUD to establish a system of flat rent?

A4: No. Flat rents must be based on the market. The imputed debt service figures were issued by HUD in 1989 in connection with the establishment of the old ceiling rents. These numbers would not reflect a market rent. PHAs may retain ceiling rents that were authorized and established before October 1, 1999, for a period of three years from October 1, 1999. After this period, the PHA must adjust ceiling rents to the level required for flat rents. After October 2002, the PHA may retain ceiling rents as part of its income-based rent policy but must absorb any cost associated with doing so. (See 960.253 (d))

Q5: Does the non-citizen rule apply to families who choose flat rents?

A5: Yes, the non-citizen rule is applicable to everyone. 24 CFR Part 5, 960.253 states that "Mixed families (those that include both citizens/eligible immigrants and noncitizens/noneligible immigrants) will not have assistance prorated if they choose to pay the flat rent, and the flat rent is greater than the public housing maximum rent as referenced in 24 CFR Part 5.520." If the flat rent is less than the public housing maximum rent, rent is prorated in accordance with the method described in 24 CFR Part 5.520 (d), however, it is expected that in most cases the flat rent will be greater than the public housing maximum rent, so proration will not be necessary.

Q7: What are the record keeping requirements for a PHA with respect to flat rents?

A7. The PHA must maintain records that document the method used to determine flat rents, how flat rents are determined by the PHA in accordance with this method, and what flat rents are offered to families under this method.

C. Ceiling Rent (24 CFR 960.253)

Q1: If a PHA opts to retain ceiling rents that were authorized and established prior to October 1, 1999, for the allowed 3-year period in lieu of establishing flat rents, does the PHA still have the option of verifying income as infrequently as every 3 years?

A1: No, the PHA must still verify the income annually if they opt to retain ceiling rents that were authorized and established before October 1, 1999, for a period of 3 years in lieu of establishing flat rents.

Q2: Can a PHA continue to use ceiling rents as a cap on the income based-rent in addition to having flat rents?

A2: A PHA can continue to have ceiling rents as a cap on the income-based rent. PHAs may retain ceiling rents that were authorized and established before October 1, 1999, for a period of three years from October 1, 1999. After this period, the PHA must adjust ceiling rents to the level required for flat rents. (See 960.253 (d))or absorb any costs associated with retaining lower ceiling rents.

Continued
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