Waiting List Administration Notice Issued by Office of Multifamily Housing
HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs recently issued Notice H 2014-16, which covers topics such as opening waiting lists, placing applicants on waiting lists, and outreach to potential applicants. The notice doesn’t mandate any new practices for owners, but rather provides additional options to further ensure fair housing compliance.
Owners are responsible for establishing an application and selection process that treats applicants equitably and provides an effective method for determining program eligibility. While maintaining a waiting list for a property, an owner may close the waiting list for one or more unit sizes if the average wait is excessive [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 4-16]. When an owner agrees to accept applications again, a notice of this action must be announced in a publication likely to be read by potential applicants and in accordance with applicable affirmative fair housing marketing requirements or the HUD-approved Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing Plan.
Owners must also accommodate persons with disabilities who cannot utilize the owner’s preferred application process, by providing alternative methods of application intake. The notice is a response to concerns that individuals with disabilities may be at a disadvantage regarding waiting list placement, and HUD is publishing additional options for owners to administer their waiting lists.
Owners must accommodate persons with disabilities who cannot use an owner’s preferred application process by providing alternative methods of application intake, such as accepting mailed or online applications.
Waiting List Notifications
When an owner agrees to open a site’s waiting list and begins to accept applications, the notice of this action must be announced in a publication likely to be read by potential applicants in the same manner and, if possible, in the same publications as the notification that the waiting list was closed [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 4-6(B)(2)].
The notifications should be extensive, and the rules for applying and the order in which applications will be processed should be stated. Advertisements should include where and when to apply. Advertising and outreach activities must be done in accordance with applicable fair housing marketing requirements or the HUD-approved Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing Plan.
The notification requirements must also comply with HUD fair housing requirements, such as adopting suitable means to assure that the notice reaches eligible individuals with disabilities and those with limited English proficiency. Multifamily owners must ensure that notices of and communications during all meetings are provided in a manner that is effective for persons with hearing, vision, and other communications-related disabilities, consistent with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and, as applicable, the Americans with Disabilities Act. This includes ensuring that meeting sites are accessible and auxiliary aids and services are provided as needed, such as materials in Braille, audio, and large type; sign language interpreters, computer-assisted real time transcription (CART) services, and assistive listening devices.
The notice cautions against opening the waiting list and accepting applications for limited periods, such as a single day, which may create disorderly and unsafe application intake processes. Opening waiting lists for longer periods and making applications available ahead of time will create safer and more effective application intake processes. Additionally, having multiple venues, both physical and online, to accept the application will help promote safety and accessibility for the application process.
Editor’s Note: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 guarantees certain rights to people with disabilities. When an owner, managing entity, or site employs 15 or more people, regardless of their location or duties, the owner or managing entity must also designate one person for the property to coordinate efforts to comply with Section 504 requirements. This doesn’t exempt owners, managing entities, or projects with fewer than 15 employees from complying with Section 504 requirements, but merely exempts the owner from having to designate a person to coordinate compliance efforts. At the owner’s discretion, this person may handle Section 504 matters for more than one property [HUD Handbook 4350.3, par. 2-28].
Waiting List Placement
In scenarios where owners elect to open a previously closed waiting list for a set period of time, owners may consider the use of a lottery or other random choice techniques to select which applicants will be placed and to determine the order these applicants will be placed on a waiting list. Owners should consider whether this is a reasonable approach where the volume of applications is high enough that placing each eligible applicant on the waiting list would result in an unrealistic waiting period for housing. It may also be appropriate in scenarios where individuals unable to apply in person at the onset of the opening would be at a distinct disadvantage in their placement on the waiting list.
If an owner uses this approach, the owner must describe it in the tenant selection plan and any public notice of a waiting list opening must clearly state that this system will be used to place applicants on the waiting list. Further, applicants should be notified that, so long as the application is submitted within the stated time frame, the timing of the application submission will have no effect on how soon they may be offered assistance. If the lottery or other random selection procedure is not used, reasonable accommodations must be made for individuals who are unable because of disabilities to submit early in the application process.
If a lottery or other random choice technique is used to place applicants on the waiting list and to determine the order in which to place applicants on the waiting list, the date and time the lottery is held should be the date recorded on the waiting list. Any preferences the applicant qualifies for must also be noted on the waiting list. Selecting tenants from the waiting list must be done in accordance with Chapter 4 of HUD Handbook 4350.3, including paragraph 4-15.A, which requires that, once unit size and preference order is determined, owners must select applications from the waiting list in chronological order to fill vacancies.
Owners must advertise according to the property’s Affirmative Fair Housing Marketing Plan and target this advertising to groups other than the typical population of the neighborhood in which the property is located while reaching out to applicants who are least likely to apply because they are not the predominant racial or ethnic group in the neighborhood.
All advertising must include the HUD-approved Equal Housing Opportunity logo, slogan, or statement. Further, all advertising depicting persons must depict members of all eligible protected classes including individuals from both majority and minority groups, including both sexes.
Further reading: See “Take Five Steps When Opening Waiting Lists” and “How to Implement Limited English Proficiency Rules.”