[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 117 (Tuesday, June 18, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 36520-36523]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-14397]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Rural Housing Service


Rural Development Voucher Program

AGENCY: Rural Housing Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Fiscal 
Year 2006 established the demonstration Rural Development Voucher 
Program, as authorized under Section 542 of the Housing Act of 1949 as 
amended, (without regard to Section 542(b)). This Notice informs the 
public that funding is available for the Rural Development Voucher 
Program and also sets forth the general policies and procedures for use 
of these vouchers for Fiscal Year 2013. Pursuant to the requirements in 
the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013, Rural 
Development Vouchers are only available to low-income tenants of Rural 
Development-financed multifamily properties where the Section 515 loan 
has been prepaid either through prepayment or foreclosure action, prior 
to the loan's maturity date and after September 30, 2005.
    RD Voucher issuance requested by eligible tenants will be made to 
the extent that funding may ultimately be made available to the Agency 
through appropriations.

DATES: In order to participate, the voucher obligation form must be 
submitted within 10 months of the foreclosure or pre-payment.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Stephanie B.M. White, Director, Multi-
Family Housing Portfolio Management Division, Rural Development, U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., STOP 0782, 
Washington, DC 20250-0782, telephone (202) 720-1615. Persons with 
hearing or speech impairments may access this number via TDD by calling 
the toll-free Federal Information Relay Service at 800-877-8339.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

I. Background

    The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013, 
Public Law 113-6 (March 26, 2013) provided that the Secretary of the 
USDA shall carry out the Rural Development Voucher program as follows:

[[Page 36521]]

    That of the funds made available under this heading, $11,000,000 
shall be available for rural housing vouchers to any low-income 
household (including those not receiving Rental Assistance) residing in 
a property financed with a Section 515 loan which has been prepaid 
after September 30, 2005: Provided further, that the amount of such 
voucher shall be the difference between comparable market rent for the 
Section 515 unit and the tenant paid rent for such unit: Provided 
further, that funds made available for such vouchers shall be subject 
to the availability of annual appropriations: Provided further, that 
the Secretary shall, to the maximum extent practicable, administer such 
vouchers with current regulations and administrative guidance 
applicable to section 8 housing vouchers administered by the Secretary 
of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
    The 2013 Act only provides authority and funding levels for the 
Rural Development Voucher program through March 27, 2013. Rural 
Development will publish a subsequent Notice if the funding level 
changes or the authority does not continue for the Rural Development 
Voucher program.
    This Notice outlines the process for providing voucher assistance 
to the eligible impacted families when an owner prepays a Section 515 
loan or USDA action results in a foreclosure after September 30, 2005.

II. Design Features of the Rural Development Voucher Program

    This section sets forth the design features of the Rural 
Development Voucher Program, including the eligibility of families, the 
inspection of the units, and the calculation of the subsidy amount.
    Rural Development Vouchers under this part are administered by the 
Rural Housing Service; an Agency under the Rural Development mission 
area, in accordance with requirements set forth in this Notice and 
further explained in, ``The Rural Development Voucher Program Guide,'' 
which can be obtained by contacting any Rural Development office. 
Contact information for Rural Development offices can be found at 
http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app. These requirements are 
generally based on the housing choice voucher program regulations of 
HUD set forth at 24 CFR part 982, unless otherwise noted by this 
Notice.
    The Rural Development Voucher Program is intended to offer 
protection to eligible multifamily housing tenants in properties 
financed through Rural Development's Section 515 Rural Rental Housing 
Program (515 property) who may be subject to economic hardship through 
prepayment of the Rural Development mortgage. When the owner of a 515 
property pays off the loan prior to the loan's maturity date (either 
through prepayment or foreclosure action), the Rural Development 
affordable housing requirements and rental assistance subsidies 
generally cease to exist. Rents may increase, thereby making the 
housing unaffordable to tenants. When a prepayment occurs, whether or 
not the rent increases, the tenant may be responsible for the full 
payment of rent. The Rural Development Voucher Program applies to any 
515 property where the mortgage is paid off prior to the maturity date 
in the promissory note and the payment occurs after September 30, 2005. 
This includes properties foreclosed on by Rural Development. Tenants in 
properties foreclosed on by Rural Development are eligible for a Rural 
Development Voucher under the same conditions as properties that go 
through the standard prepayment process.
    The Rural Development Voucher will help tenants by providing an 
annual rental subsidy, renewable on the terms and conditions set forth 
herein and subject to the availability of funds, that will supplement 
the tenant's rent payment. This program enables a tenant to make an 
informed decision about remaining in the property, moving to a new 
property, or obtaining other financial housing assistance. Low-income 
tenants in the prepaying property are eligible to receive a voucher to 
use at their current rental property or to take to any other rental 
unit in the United States and its territories.
    There are some general limitations on the use of a voucher:
     The rental unit must pass a Rural Development health and 
safety inspection, and the owner must be willing to accept a Rural 
Development Voucher;
     Also, Rural Development Vouchers cannot be used for units 
in subsidized housing like Section 8 and public housing where two 
housing subsidies would result. The Rural Development Voucher may be 
used for rental units in other properties financed by Rural 
Development, but it will not be used in combination with the Rural 
Development Rental Assistance program.
     The Rural Development Voucher may not be used to purchase 
a home.
    a. Family Eligibility. In order to be eligible for the Rural 
Development Voucher under this Notice, a family must:
    1. Be residing in the Section 515 project on the date of the 
prepayment of the Section 515 loan or upon foreclosure by Rural 
Development;
    2. The date of the prepayment or foreclosure must be after 
September 30, 2005;
    3. As required by Section 214 of the Housing and Community 
Development Act of 1980 [42 U.S.C. 1436a] the primary tenant and co-
tenant, if applicable, must be a United States (U.S.) citizen, U.S. 
non-citizen national or qualified alien.
    i. For each family member who contends that he or she is a U.S. 
citizen or a noncitizen with eligible immigration status, the family 
must submit to Rural Development a written declaration, signed under 
penalty of perjury, by which the family member declares whether he or 
she is a U.S. citizen or a noncitizen with eligible immigration status:
    A. For each adult, the declaration must be signed by the adult; and
    B. For each child, the declaration must be signed by an adult 
residing in the assisted dwelling unit who is responsible for the 
child.
    ii. Each family member, regardless of age, must submit the 
following evidence to the responsible entity:
    A. For citizens, the evidence consists of a signed declaration of 
U.S. citizenship. Rural Development may request verification of the 
declaration by requiring presentation of a U.S. passport, social 
security card, or other appropriate documentation;
    B. For noncitizens who are 62 years of age or older, the evidence 
consists of:
    1. A signed declaration of eligible immigration status; and
    2. Proof of age document; and
    C. For all other noncitizens, the evidence consists of:
    1. A signed declaration of eligible immigration status;
    2. Alien registration documentation or other proof of immigration 
registration from the United States Citizenship and Immigration 
Services (USCIS) that contains the individual's alien admission number 
or alien file number; and
    3. A signed verification consent form, which provides that evidence 
of eligible immigration status may be released to Rural Development and 
USCIS for purposes of verifying the immigration status of the 
individual. Rural Development shall provide a reasonable opportunity, 
not to exceed 30 days, to submit evidence indicating a satisfactory 
immigration status, or to appeal to the Immigration and

[[Page 36522]]

Naturalization Service the verification determination of the 
Immigration and Naturalization Service; and;
    4. The family must be a low-income family on the date of the 
prepayment or foreclosure. A low-income family is a family whose annual 
income does not exceed 80 percent of the family median income for the 
area as defined by HUD. HUD's definition of median income can be found 
at: http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/il/il12/index_mfi.html.
    During the prepayment or foreclosure process, Rural Development 
will evaluate every tenant family to determine if it is low-income. If 
Rural Development determines a family is low-income, immediately 
following the foreclosure or prepayment, Rural Development will send 
the primary tenant a letter offering the family a voucher and will 
enclose a Voucher Obligation Request Form and a citizenship declaration 
form. If the family wants to participate in the Rural Development 
Voucher Program, the tenant has 10 months from the date of prepayment 
or foreclosure to return the Voucher Obligation Request Form and the 
citizenship declaration to the local Rural Development office. If Rural 
Development determines that the tenant is ineligible, Rural Development 
will provide administrative appeal rights pursuant to 7 CFR part 11.
    b. Obtaining a Voucher. Rural Development will monitor the 
prepayment request process or foreclosure process, as applicable. As 
part of prepayment or foreclosure, Rural Development will obtain a rent 
comparability study for the property 90 days prior to the date of 
prepayment or foreclosure. The rent comparability study will be used to 
calculate the amount of voucher each tenant is entitled to receive. All 
tenants will be notified if they are eligible and the amount of the 
voucher within 90 days following the date of prepayment or foreclosure. 
The tenant notice will include a description of the Rural Development 
Voucher Program, a Voucher Obligation Request Form, and letter from 
Rural Development offering the tenant participation in Rural 
Development Voucher Program. The tenant has 10 months from the date of 
prepayment or foreclosure to return the Voucher Obligation Request Form 
and the signed citizenship declaration. Failure to submit the Voucher 
Obligation Request Form and the signed citizenship declaration within 
the required timeframes will terminate the tenant's voucher. A tenant's 
failure to respond within the required timeframes is not appealable. 
Once the primary tenant returns the Voucher Obligation Request Form and 
the citizenship declaration to Rural Development, a voucher will be 
issued within 30 days. All information necessary for a housing search, 
explanations of unit acceptability, and Rural Development contact 
information will be provided by Rural Development to the tenant at the 
time the Voucher Obligation Form and citizenship declaration is 
received.
    The family receiving a Rural Development Voucher has an initial 
period of 60 calendar days from issuance of the voucher to find a 
housing unit. At its discretion, Rural Development may grant one or 
more extensions of the initial period for up to an additional 60 days. 
Generally the maximum voucher period for any family participating in 
the Rural Development Voucher Program is 120 days. Only if the family 
needs and requests an extension of the initial period as a reasonable 
accommodation to make the program accessible to a disabled family 
member, Rural Development will extend the voucher search period beyond 
the 120 days. If the Rural Development Voucher remains unused after a 
period of 150 days from original issuance, the Rural Development 
Voucher will become void, any funding will be cancelled, and the tenant 
will no longer be eligible to receive a Rural Development Voucher.
    c. Initial Lease Term. The initial lease term for the housing unit 
where the family wishes to use the Rural Development Voucher must be 
for one year.
    d. Inspection of Units and Unit Approval. Once the family finds a 
housing unit, Rural Development will inspect and determine if the 
housing standard is acceptable within 30 days of Rural Development's 
receipt of the HUD Form 52517 ``Request for Tenancy Approval Housing 
Choice Voucher Program'' found at http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/hudclips/forms/files/52517.pdf and the Disclosure of Information on 
Lead-Based Paint Hazards. The inspection standards currently in effect 
for the Rural Development Section 515 Multi-Family Housing Program 
apply to the Rural Development Voucher Program. Rural Development must 
inspect the unit and ensure that the unit meets the housing inspection 
standards set forth at 7 CFR 3560.103. Under no circumstances may Rural 
Development make voucher rental payments for any period of time prior 
to the date that Rural Development physically inspects the unit and 
determines the unit meets the housing inspection standards. In the case 
of properties financed by Rural Development under the Section 515 
program, Rural Development may accept the results of physical 
inspections performed no more than one year prior to the date of 
receipt by Rural Development of Form HUD 52517, in order to make 
determinations on acceptable housing standards. Before approving a 
family's assisted tenancy or executing a Housing Assistance Payments 
contract, Rural Development must determine that the following 
conditions are met:
    1. The unit has been inspected by Rural Development and passes the 
housing standards inspection or has otherwise been found acceptable as 
noted previously; and
    2. The lease includes the HUD Tenancy Addendum. A copy of the HUD 
Tenancy Addendum will be provided by Rural Development when the tenant 
is informed he/she is eligible for a voucher.
    Once the conditions in the above paragraph are met, Rural 
Development will approve the unit for leasing. Rural Development will 
then execute with the owner a Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) 
contract, Form HUD-52641. The HAP contract must be executed before 
Rural Development Voucher payments can be made. Rural Development will 
use its best efforts to execute the HAP contract on behalf of the 
family before the beginning of the lease term. In the event that this 
does not occur, the HAP contract may be executed up to 60 calendar days 
after the beginning of the lease term. If the HAP contract is executed 
during this 60-day period, Rural Development will pay retroactive 
housing assistance payments to cover the portion of the approved lease 
term before execution of the HAP contract. Any HAP contract executed 
after the 60-day period is untimely, and Rural Development will not pay 
any housing assistance payment to the owner for that period. In 
establishing the effective date of the voucher HAP contracts, Rural 
Development may not execute a HAP contract that is effective prior to 
the Section 515 loan prepayment.
    e. Subsidy Calculations for Rural Development Vouchers. As stated 
earlier, if eligible, the tenant will be notified of the maximum 
voucher amount within 90 days following prepayment or foreclosure. The 
maximum voucher amount for the Rural Development Voucher Program is the 
difference between the comparable market rent for the family's former 
Section 515 unit and the tenant's rent contribution on the date of the 
prepayment. The voucher amount will be based on the comparable market 
rent; the voucher amount will never exceed the comparable market rent 
at the time

[[Page 36523]]

of prepayment for the tenant's unit if the tenant chooses to stay in-
place. Also, in no event may the Rural Development Voucher payment 
exceed the actual tenant lease rent. The amount of the voucher does not 
change either over time or if the tenant chooses to move to a more 
expensive location.
    1. f. Mobility and Portability of Rural Development Vouchers. An 
eligible family that is issued a Rural Development Voucher may elect to 
use the assistance in the same project or may choose to move to another 
location. The Rural Development Voucher may be used at the prepaid 
property or any other rental unit in the United States and its 
territories that passes Rural Development physical inspection 
standards, and where the owner will accept a Rural Development Voucher 
and execute a Form HUD 52641. Tenants and landlords must inform Rural 
Development if the tenant plans to move during the HAP agreement term, 
even to a new unit in the same complex. All moves (within a complex or 
to another complex) require a new obligation, a new inspection and a 
new HAP agreement. In addition, HUD Section 8 and federally assisted 
public housing is excluded from the Rural Development Voucher Program 
because these units are already federally subsidized. Tenants with a 
Rural Development Voucher would have to give up the Rural Development 
Voucher to accept the assistance at those properties. The Rural 
Development Voucher may be used in other properties financed by Rural 
Development, but it cannot be used in combination with the Rural 
Development Rental Assistance program. Tenants with a Rural Development 
Voucher that apply for housing in a Rural Development-financed property 
must choose between using the voucher or Rental Assistance. If the 
tenant relinquishes the Rural Development Voucher in favor of Rental 
Assistance, the tenant is not eligible to receive another Rural 
Development Voucher.
    g. Term of Funding and Conditions for Renewal for Rural Development 
Vouchers. The Rural Development Voucher Program provides voucher 
assistance for 12 monthly payments. The voucher is issued to the 
household in the name of the primary tenant, as the voucher holder. The 
voucher is not transferable from the voucher holder to any other 
household member except in the case of the voucher holder's death or 
involuntary household separation such as the incarceration of the 
voucher holder or transfer of the voucher holder to an assisted living 
or nursing home facility. Upon receiving documentation of such cases, 
the voucher may be transferred at the Agency's discretion to another 
tenant on the voucher holder's lease.
    The voucher is renewable subject to the availability of 
appropriations to the USDA. In order to renew a voucher, a tenant must 
return a signed Voucher Obligation Form which will be sent to the 
tenant within 60-90 days before the current voucher expires. If the 
voucher holder fails to return the renewal Voucher Obligation Form 
before the current voucher funding expires, the voucher will be 
terminated.
    In order to ensure continued eligibility to use the Rural 
Development Voucher, at the time they apply for renewal of the voucher, 
tenants must certify that the current family income does not exceed 80 
percent of family median income. Rural Development will advise the 
tenant of the maximum income level when the renewal Voucher Obligation 
Form is sent.
    Renewal requests will have no preference and will be processed as a 
new application as described in this Notice.

III. Non-Discrimination Statement

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination 
against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the 
bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender 
identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, 
marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all 
or part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance 
program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any 
program or activity conducted or funded by the Department. (Not all 
prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment 
activities.)
    If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of 
discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form 
(PDF), found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, or at any USDA office, or call (866) 632-9992 to request the 
form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information 
requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to 
us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of 
Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250-9410, 
by fax (202) 690-7442 or email at program.intake@usda.gov.
    Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech 
disabilities and you wish to file either an EEO or program complaint 
please contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339 
or (800) 845-6136 (in Spanish).
    Persons with disabilities, who wish to file a program complaint, 
please see information above on how to contact us by mail directly or 
by email. If you require alternative means of communication for program 
information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) please 
contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD).

IV. Paperwork Reduction Act

    The information collection requirements contained in this document 
are those of the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which have been 
approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3520) and assigned OMB 
control number 2577-0169. In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction 
Act, HUD may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to 
respond to, a collection of information unless the collection displays 
a currently valid OMB control number.

    Dated: June 11, 2013.
Tammye Trevi[ntilde]o,
Administrator, Rural Housing Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-14397 Filed 6-17-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 3410-XV-P