The Regs are out!

written by Norm Suchar
July 16, 2012

Just in time for our conference, HUD has published an interim rule for the new Continuum of Care program (CoC program). The regulations follow the HEARTH Act closely, so if you’ve read any of our material about the changes made by the HEARTH Act, you already know much of the story. However, there are a few new and interesting things.

First of all, the regulations provide a little more detail on what will be expected with coordinated assessment systems. Your CoC will have to develop a process that assesses people’s need for housing and services. There are numerous ways HUD will allow you to structure a coordinated assessment system, including having one centralized location where the assessments take place, using a 2-1-1 based system, or having multiple entry points. In addition to conducting the assessment, CoCs will have to have uniform process for evaluating eligibility for different types of assistance for determining how people will be prioritized for different types of assistance. We discuss a lot of these issues in our Coordinated Assessment Toolkit.

There are now two types of permanent housing–permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing. Permanent supportive will generally look and function as it does currently, however, there are a several changes. The match will be 25 percent cash or in-kind as it will be for all activities except for leasing, which has no match requirement. Projects will be allowed to get funding for rental assistance and services in the same grant. There are also numerous other changes to the development process, including the removal of the cap on how much can be used for capital expenses. Although many CoCs have used SHP grants to create rapid re-housing programs, the new CoC program will make that process much more simple and straightforward. Rapid re-housing funded through the CoC  program looks a lot like the rapid re-housing provided through the new Emergency Solutions Grant. I expect that a few existing transitional housing providers who utilize a transition in place model will find that their programs align better with a permanent housing-rapid re-housing grant.

There will now be funding available for planning and administration of the CoC. In most cases, it will be up to three percent of a CoCs final pro-rata need. For CoCs that decide to consolidate all of their grants into one, up to six percent will be available. Just because the regulations allow it doesn’t necessarily mean that Congress will provide enough funding to ensure that everybody gets the full amount, but this is a very welcome change. Along with this funding, HUD will be expecting a more formal structure for CoCs, including a formal board, and CoCs will have up to two years to establish a board if they haven’t already. In traveling to communities around the country, I have continually been reminded of how important good management and planning are to homeless assistance.

One of the things that wasn’t included in the interim regulation that we’ll see later on is more detail about performance measures and expectations. While the expected outcomes are defined in the HEARTH Act, the details about how the measures work will come later.

The regulations will go into effect 30 days from when they are published in the Federal Register, which should happen in the next few days. Nevertheless, there is still an opportunity to comment, and HUD frequently makes changes based on comments. The Alliance will develop comments, and I would encourage everybody who’s interested to do so as well. They make a big difference

Overall, these regulations are very good and fill in a lot of the important details for implementing the HEARTH Act. We’ll have more detailed analyses in the days and weeks to come.