Fair Market Rents for the Housing Choice Voucher Program,Moderate Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy Program, and Other ProgramsFiscal Year 2020; Revised, 14235-14238 [2020-04996]

Download as PDF lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 48 / Wednesday, March 11, 2020 / Notices 888–897–7781 (TTY 877–875–6028) or email USCIS at I–9Central@dhs.gov. USCIS accepts calls in English, Spanish, and many other languages. Employees or applicants may also call the IER Worker Hotline at 800–255–7688 (TTY 800–237–2515) for information regarding employment discrimination based upon citizenship, immigration status, or national origin, including discrimination related to Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I–9) and EVerify. The IER Worker Hotline provides language interpretation in numerous languages. To comply with the law, employers must accept any document or combination of documents from the Lists of Acceptable Documents if the documentation reasonably appears to be genuine and to relate to the employee, or an acceptable List A, List B, or List C receipt as described in the Form I–9 Instructions. Employers may not require extra or additional documentation beyond what is required for Form I–9 completion. Further, employers participating in E-Verify who receive an E-Verify case result of ‘‘Tentative Nonconfirmation’’ (TNC) must promptly inform employees of the TNC and give such employees an opportunity to contest the TNC. A TNC case result means that the information entered into E-Verify from an employee’s Form I–9 differs from records available to DHS. Employers may not terminate, suspend, delay training, withhold pay, lower pay, or take any adverse action against an employee because of the TNC while the case is still pending with EVerify. A ‘‘Final Nonconfirmation’’ (FNC) case result is received when EVerify cannot verify an employee’s employment eligibility. An employer may terminate employment based on a case result of FNC. Work-authorized employees who receive an FNC may call USCIS for assistance at 888–897–7781 (TTY 877–875–6028). For more information about E-Verify-related discrimination or to report an employer for discrimination in the E-Verify process based on citizenship, immigration status, or national origin, contact IER’s Worker Hotline at 800– 255–7688 (TTY 800–237–2515). Additional information about proper nondiscriminatory Form I–9 and EVerify procedures is available on the IER website at www.justice.gov/ier and on the USCIS and E-Verify websites at www.uscis.gov/i-9-central and www.everify.gov. VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:37 Mar 10, 2020 Jkt 250001 Note Regarding Federal, State, and Local Government Agencies (Such as Departments of Motor Vehicles) For Federal purposes, TPS beneficiaries presenting an EAD referenced in this Federal Register Notice do not need to show any other document, such as an I–797C Notice of Action, to prove that they qualify for this extension. However, while Federal Government agencies must follow the guidelines laid out by the Federal Government, state and local government agencies establish their own rules and guidelines when granting certain benefits. Each state may have different laws, requirements, and determinations about what documents you need to provide to prove eligibility for certain benefits. Whether you are applying for a Federal, state, or local government benefit, you may need to provide the government agency with documents that show you are a TPS beneficiary, show you are authorized to work based on TPS or other status, and/or that may be used by DHS to determine whether you have TPS or other immigration status. Examples of such documents are: • Your current EAD; • A copy of your Form I–797C, Notice of Action, for your Form I–765 providing an automatic extension of your currently expired or expiring EAD; • A copy of your Form I–797C, Notice of Action, for your Form I–821 for this re-registration; • A copy of your Form I–797, the notice of approval, for a past or current Form I–821, if you received one from USCIS; and • Any other relevant DHS-issued document that indicates your immigration status or authorization to be in the United States, or that may be used by DHS to determine whether you have such status or authorization to remain in the United States. Check with the government agency regarding which document(s) the agency will accept. Some benefit-granting agencies use the USCIS Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program to confirm the current immigration status of applicants for public benefits. While SAVE can verify when an alien has TPS, each agency’s procedures govern whether they will accept an unexpired EAD, I–797, or I– 94. You should: a. Present the agency with a copy of the relevant Federal Register notice showing the extension of TPS-related documentation in addition to your recent TPS-related document with your alien or I–94 number; b. Explain that SAVE will be able to verify the continuation of your TPS using this information; and PO 00000 Frm 00052 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 14235 c. Ask the agency to initiate a SAVE query with your information and follow through with additional verification steps, if necessary, to get a final SAVE response showing the validity of your TPS. You can also ask the agency to look for SAVE notices or contact SAVE if they have any questions about your immigration status or auto-extension of TPS-related documentation. In most cases, SAVE provides an automated electronic response to benefit-granting agencies within seconds, but, occasionally, verification can be delayed. You can check the status of your SAVE verification by using CaseCheck at save.uscis.gov/ casecheck/, then by clicking the ‘‘Check Your Case’’ button. CaseCheck is a free service that lets you follow the progress of your SAVE verification using your date of birth and one immigration identifier number. If an agency has denied your application based solely or in part on a SAVE response, the agency must offer you the opportunity to appeal the decision in accordance with the agency’s procedures. If the agency has received and acted upon or will act upon a SAVE verification and you do not believe the response is correct, you may make an appointment for an inperson interview at a local USCIS office. Detailed information on how to make corrections or update your immigration record, make an appointment, or submit a written request to correct records under the Freedom of Information Act can be found on the SAVE website at www.uscis.gov/save. [FR Doc. 2020–04976 Filed 3–10–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 9111–97–P DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT [Docket No. FR–6161–N–03] Fair Market Rents for the Housing Choice Voucher Program,Moderate Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy Program, and Other ProgramsFiscal Year 2020; Revised Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research, HUD. ACTION: Notice of revised fiscal year (FY) 2020 fair market rents (FMRs) and discussion of comments on FY 2020 FMRs. AGENCY: This notice updates the FY 2020 FMRs for six areas based on new survey data: Asheville, NC HUD Metro FMR Area (HMFA), Eugene-Springfield, OR Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\11MRN1.SGM 11MRN1 14236 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 48 / Wednesday, March 11, 2020 / Notices Portland, ME HMFA, Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA MSA, Worcester, MA HMFA, and Guam. Further, HUD responds to comments received on the FY 2020 FMRs. Effective Date: The revised FY 2020 FMRs for these six areas are effective on April 10, 2020. DATES: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Questions on how to conduct FMR surveys or concerning further methodological explanations may be addressed to Marie L. Lihn or Peter B. Kahn, Program Parameters and Research Division, Office of Economic Affairs, Office of Policy Development and Research, telephone 202–402–2409. Persons with hearing or speech impairments may access this number through TTY by calling the toll-free Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339 (toll-free). Questions related to use of FMRs or voucher payment standards should be directed to the respective local HUD program staff. For technical information on the methodology used to develop FMRs or a listing of all FMRs, please call the HUD USER information line at 800– 245–2691 (toll-free) or access the information on the HUD USER website: http://www.huduser.gov/portal/ datasets/fmr.html. The FY 2020 EXCEL files have been updated to include these revised FMRs and this data is included in our query system by FMR area. For informational purposes, the 50th percentile rents for all FMR areas are updated and published at http:// www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/ 50per.html. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On August 30, 2019 HUD published the FY 2020 FMRs, requesting comments on the FY 2020 FMRs, and outlining procedures for requesting a reevaluation of an area’s FY 2020 FMRs (84 FR 45789). This notice revises FY 2020 FMRs for six areas based on data provided to HUD. In addition to providing revised FY 2020 FMRs, this notice also provides responses to the public comments HUD received on the notice referenced above. I. Revised FY 2020 FMRs The FMRs appearing in the following table supersede the use of the FY 2019 FMRs for the five areas requesting reevaluation and for Guam, which has been using FY 2020 FMRs. The updated FY 2020 FMRs are based on surveys conducted by the area public housing agencies (PHAs) and reflect the estimated 40th percentile rent levels trended to April 1, 2020. The FMRs for the affected area are revised as follows: FMR by number of bedrooms in unit 2020 Fair market rent area 0 BR Asheville, NC HUD Metro FMR Area .............................. Eugene-Springfield, OR MSA .......................................... Portland, ME HUD Metro FMR Area ............................... Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA MSA ............................. Worcester, MA HUD Metro FMR Area ............................ Guam ............................................................................... The FY 2020 FMRs are amended and are available on the HUD USER website: http://www.huduser.gov/portal/ datasets/fmr.html. The FY 2020 Small Area FMRs (SAFMRs) for metropolitan areas with revised FMRs have also been updated commensurate with the metropolitan area revisions and may be found at https://www.huduser.gov/ portal/datasets/fmr/smallarea/ index.html. lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with NOTICES II. Public Comments on FY 2020 FMRs A total of 20 comments were received and posted on regulations.gov, https:// www.regulations.gov/docket?D=HUD2019-0070. Of the 20 comments received, nine were reevaluation requests for nine FMR areas. HUD granted requests for reevaluation for 8 FMR areas, and rejected one request submitted by a tenant looking for affordable housing in Memphis, TN. HUD could not approve this request because the request was not made by housing agencies administering more than half of the vouchers in the FMR area as required by item 1 in the request for reevaluation procedures in the August 30, 2019 Federal Register notice. HUD discussed these requests for reevaluation in a posting available at https://www.huduser.gov/portal/ VerDate Sep<11>2014 00:09 Mar 11, 2020 Jkt 250001 1 BR $1,039 773 1,072 1,684 1,013 952 $1,045 893 1,167 1,964 1,100 1,043 datasets/fmr/fmr2020/Areas-whereFY2019-;FMRs-Remain-in-Effect.pdf. Public housing agencies in the eight areas where HUD agreed to reevaluate the FY 2020 FMRs continued to use FY 2019 FMRs during the reevaluation period as mandated by the Housing Opportunities Through Modernization Act. Five of these eight areas have continued to use FY 2019 FMRs since January 10, 2020 because they provided valid survey data to revise the FY 2020 FMRs. FY 2020 FMRs became effective on January 13, 2020 for the three areas where local survey data was not submitted by the January 10, 2020 cutoff date. HUD published a list of the three FMR areas not providing data on January 13, 2020 stating that the FY 2020 FMRs become effective on January 13, 2020 (https://www.huduser.gov/ portal/datasets/fmr/fmr2020/FMRAreas-Requesting-Re-evaluation-andNo-Data-Submission.pdf). This notice provides the reevaluated FY 2020 FMRs for the five areas requesting reevaluation and for Guam. General Comments Most of the comments not related to specific areas requesting a reevaluation discussed inaccuracies of the FMRs and a need for more current and local data. PO 00000 Frm 00053 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 2 BR 3 BR $1,255 1,176 1,516 2,324 1,398 1,374 $1,717 1,696 1,982 3,101 1,742 1,982 4 BR $2,203 1,989 2,413 3,572 1,894 2,412 These comments and their responses are discussed in greater detail below. Comment: Several commenters suggested that HUD should provide additional funding to PHAs who undertake local area surveys. One comment noted that the cost for address-based mail surveys is in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. HUD Response: HUD reminds PHAs that paying for local area rent surveys is an eligible expense to be paid from ongoing administrative fees or their administrative fee reserve account. The estimate of $5,000 to $10,000 per survey is incorrect. This value is apparently based on a study conducted in 2012 for very small metropolitan areas with fewer than 20,000 rental units. Far fewer than 100 survey cases were acceptable at this time, but no longer because over time HUD has imposed a minimum 100 observation requirement to reduce year to year fluctuations in FMRs. The cost of the survey increases with the size of the FMR, the size of the rental market and the availability and cost of good rental market lists. Comment: HUD’s reliance on setting FMRs at the 40th percentile is flawed because this only works if there is a normal distribution of rental units. Substandard housing should be removed E:\FR\FM\11MRN1.SGM 11MRN1 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with NOTICES Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 48 / Wednesday, March 11, 2020 / Notices because this only works if there is a normal distribution of rental units. Substandard housing should be removed from the distribution when calculating a 40th percentile rent. HUD Response: The purpose of using a percentile instead of an average is to account for abnormal distributions. HUD removes responses from the American Community Survey (ACS) when the respondent reports the unit does not have a complete kitchen or complete plumbing to address substandard units. In addition, HUD determines a ‘‘public housing cut-off rent’’ to eliminate the bottom end of the distribution of rental units from the ACS before the 40th percentile rent is calculated as a proxy to remove units with low rents that are likely in nonmarket transactions (e.g., rented from relatives), subsidized (ACS does not ask whether households receive rental subsidies), or are otherwise inadequate in some manner not measured by the ACS. HUD uses a consistent method to calculate this distribution cut off for each HUD region. HUD continues to explore alternatives for removing assisted units from the ACS responses before the 40th percentile rent is calculated for the purpose of calculating FMRs. Comment: HUD needs to conduct its own analysis or research to address market anomalies and account for erratic fluctuations in FMRs between years and by bedroom size. HUD Response: HUD did conduct research into different methods of calculating the trend factor and implemented metropolitan and regional forecasting into the calculation of the trend factor in the FY 2020 FMRs. To correct erratic fluctuations in FMRs year over year, HUD has implemented steps to attenuate the fluctuations found in the annually updated survey data. HUD has made methodology changes that call for averaging bedroom ratios over three years of data and averaging base rents over the same period when the data is limited. The statutory directive to use the most recent data available compels HUD to update the data behind each area’s FMR calculation when new data is released. Consequently, FMRs will change from year to year in accordance with changes in the underlying survey data. HUD emphasizes that the primary data source for FMRs is a survey (ACS) and while surveyors do their best to select unbiased random samples of the population, sampling error persists within survey statistics. Comment: Along with inadequate administrative fees, inadequate FMRs result in voucher underutilization VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:37 Mar 10, 2020 Jkt 250001 nationwide. HUD’s methodology for setting FMRs also often results in a reduction of choice and in many places relegates voucher holders to the poorest areas. HUD Response: HUD’s methodology for calculating FMRs has been revised to improve choice in metropolitan areas through the use of Small Area FMRs and in all FMR areas by the use of local or regional trend factors as opposed to one national trend factor. Outside the voucher program, however, especially for programs that only allow for the use of area-wide FMRs, the FMR may cover the cost of units with rent above the 40th percentile found in the poorest of areas. Comment: HUD should create new administrative mechanisms to cope with inaccurate FMRs. HUD Response: HUD does have procedures that provide flexibility in the voucher program that allow PHAs to keep payment standards constant when FMRs decline. For areas where rents increase more rapidly than what is captured by the most recent data available to HUD in calculating FMRs, the department provides a mechanism for more recent data collected in a survey to be supplied to HUD. Lastly, HUD has eased the exception payment standard regulations in metropolitan areas to allow for the use of up to 110 percent of the Small Area FMR as an exception payment standard with no approval needed from HUD. The only requirement is for PHAs to notify HUD of their use of Small Area FMRs in this manner. New administrative procedures would have to be developed by the programs other than the Housing Choice Voucher program to allow for use of payment standards to provide additional flexibility. Each program required to use FMRs without similar flexibility to payment standards would have to amend its regulations to allow for flexible application of FMRs if statute permits. Comment: Adjustments to FMRs must be followed by the commensurate adjustments in the Renewal Funding Inflation Factors (RFIF), particularly in the years following rapid growth and increase in the FMR. HUD Response: HUD includes revised FMRs in that year’s RFIFs. This gives those areas that provided new survey data with an increase in their RFIF in the first year over what they would have had under the FMRs without the revision. In subsequent years, while the survey is still effective, their FMRs will only increase by normal factors, and the RFIFs change accordingly. Comment: Proper consideration is not being paid by HUD to rapidly escalating PO 00000 Frm 00054 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 14237 market rents; HUD should tie FMR calculations to the qualifier provided in Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis (CMHA) and other such publications. The qualifiers include economy, sales market and rental market and include categorical ranking and description that give more insight into local market conditions than older census survey data. HUD Response: HUD’s Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis (CHMA) and other such publications are undertaken primarily to assess the demand for construction of new housing units over a three-year market horizon. Moreover, CHMAs are not conducted in all areas and are typically not annually updated. Finally, the area over which a CHMA is conducted is at the discretion of HUD’s Field Economist organization and may not align with FMR area boundaries. This is to ensure the construction demand estimates provided in the CHMAs are targeted appropriately. These reasons make CHMAs a poor source of data for calculating FMRs. Finally, the FY 2020 appropriations statute directs HUD to undertake a research study to determine alternative methods for calculating FMRs in markets with rapidly rising rents. HUD is in the initial stages of beginning this research effort and expects to have the research completed sometime in 2021. Comment: HUD should increase transparency of the FMR calculation, especially for FMR areas that are based on local rent surveys. Unless full transparency is provided into the calculations and methodology used in determining FMRs, the argument that HUD cannot use private data is invalid. HUD should publish a forecast at 6 months into the year of the trend factor, so agencies are given plenty of time to plan a rent survey or deal with other negative impacts to funding. HUD Response: For the FY 2020 FMRs, HUD modified its Documentation System to provide better information for areas that receive an FMR based on current or past surveys. Comment: HUD should continue to refine its methodology for calculating FMRs. A high priority should be placed on improving the data that is used to derive more accurate FMRs. HUD should explore ‘‘scraping’’ local rent data or purchase this data for access to rents in newer Class A properties. HUD should use more timely data when calculating FMRs. In addition, HUD needs to use data to exclude rent controlled units from FMR calculations. Other than various private data sources, HUD could enter into an interagency agreement with the IRS to get E:\FR\FM\11MRN1.SGM 11MRN1 lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with NOTICES 14238 Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 48 / Wednesday, March 11, 2020 / Notices information on monthly rent and size of units from landlord tax filings. HUD Response: There is no other data on gross rents paid that is consistently collected on a nationwide basis, available to HUD, that is more current than the data we receive through the ACS. Proprietary rental data cannot be used as the basis for the FMR calculations because it is not consistently available for all areas and is not collected in such a way that it is statistically representative of the rental markets it covers. Some of these sources focus on rents for major apartment projects only. Additionally, rents for single family homes, which are at least 30 percent of the rental market in major metropolitan areas and a greater portion in rural areas, are typically compiled from internet-based ads, or the small subset of professionally managed singlefamily rental units and generally are not representative of the entire rental stock of single family homes. Online listings of rents are similar to newspaper ads which have been excluded as a source of rent data for FMRs since the mid1980s due to a directive issued by HUD’s Inspector General because they do not constitute a statistically representative sample of the rental market for an area. HUD can only exclude rent control units if it has some basis for determining the scope of rents in an area that are governed by rent control. The Federal Government invests a substantial amount of resources in collecting socio-economic data through the American Community Survey (ACS). Furthermore, the Census Bureau has statutory advantages in compelling responses to the ACS and receives significantly higher response rates than HUD could achieve if it was to undertake its own survey program. The IRS is prohibited by law from releasing taxpayer information such as rental income, even to other Federal agencies. Comment: HUD should use the 2017 American Community Survey data to compare the gross rent by FMR area to the FY 2017 FMRs to determine accuracy of FMRs and report back to the industry. HUD Response: HUD undertook an analysis such as this and reported the results in a recent report to Congress. Please see the section labeled ‘‘Accuracy of FMRs’’ in HUD’s report ‘‘Proposals To Update the Fair Market Rent Formula’’, page 3, available at https:// www.huduser.gov/portal/sites/default/ files/pdf/Proposals-To-Update-the-FairMarket-Rent-Formula.pdf. Between 2009 and 2016 for areas with sufficiently large ACS recent mover rental unit samples, the ACS-measured VerDate Sep<11>2014 16:37 Mar 10, 2020 Jkt 250001 40th percentile gross rents were within 90 to 110 percent of the published FMRs in 83.4 to 94.3 percent of cases. These results do not adjust for more recent improvements in the FMR estimation method. III. Environmental Impact This Notice involves establishment of a rate and does not constitute a development decision affecting the physical condition of specific project areas or building sites. Accordingly, under 24 CFR 50.19(c)(6), this Notice is categorically excluded from environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321). Dated: March 5, 2020. Todd M. Richardson, General Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Policy Development and Research. [FR Doc. 2020–04996 Filed 3–10–20; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4210–67–P DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS–R4–ES–2019–N029; FXES11130400000EA–123–FF04EF1000] Receipt of Incidental Take Permit Application and Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan for the Alabama Beach Mouse, Baldwin County, AL; Categorical Exclusion Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comment and information. AGENCY: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce receipt of an application from Michael McKoy (applicant) for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act. The applicant requests the ITP to take the federally listed Alabama beach mouse incidental to construction in Baldwin County, Alabama. We request public comment on the application, which includes the applicant’s proposed habitat conservation plan (HCP), and the Service’s preliminary determination that this HCP qualifies as ‘‘low-effect,’’ categorically excluded, under the National Environmental Policy Act. To make this determination, we used our environmental action statement and low-effect screening form, both of which are also available for public review. DATES: We must receive your written comments on or before April 10, 2020. ADDRESSES: Obtaining documents: Documents are available for public SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00055 Fmt 4703 Sfmt 4703 inspection by appointment during regular business hours at either of the following locations or by email: • Atlanta Regional Office, Ecological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1875 Century Boulevard, Atlanta, GA 30345. • Alabama Ecological Services Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1208 Main Street, Daphne, AL 36526. • Email a request to William_Lynn@ fws.gov, please reference TE46613D–0 in the subject line. Submitting comments: If you wish to submit comments on any of the documents, you may do so in writing by either of the following methods. Please reference TE46613D–0 in all comments. U.S. mail: You may mail comments to either of the Fish and Wildlife Service Offices listed above. Hand-delivery: You may hand-deliver comments to either of the Fish and Wildlife Service Offices listed above. Email: You may email comments to david_dell@fws.gov. Please include your name and email address in your email. If you do not receive an email from us confirming that we have received your message, contact us directly at either telephone number in FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: David Dell, Regional HCP and Safe Harbors Coordinator, at the Atlanta Regional Office (see ADDRESSES), or by telephone at 404–679–7313, or Mr. William Lynn, Project Manager, at the Alabama Ecological Services Office (see ADDRESSES), or by telephone at 251– 441–5868. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), please call the Federal Relay Service at 800–877–8339. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: We, the Fish and Wildlife Service, announce receipt of an application from Michael McKoy (applicant) for an incidental take permit (ITP) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (ESA; 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.). The applicant requests to take the federally listed Alabama beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus ammobates; ABM) incidental to the construction of a single-family home (project) in Baldwin County, Alabama. We request public comment on the application, which includes the applicant’s proposed habitat conservation plan (HCP) and the Service’s preliminary determination that this HCP qualifies as ‘‘low-effect,’’ categorically excluded, under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA; 42 U.S.C. 4231 et seq.) To make this determination, we used our environmental action statement and low-effect screening form, both of which are also available for public review. E:\FR\FM\11MRN1.SGM 11MRN1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 85, Number 48 (Wednesday, March 11, 2020)]
[Notices]
[Pages 14235-14238]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2020-04996]


=======================================================================
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

[Docket No. FR-6161-N-03]


Fair Market Rents for the Housing Choice Voucher Program,Moderate 
Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy Program, and Other ProgramsFiscal 
Year 2020; Revised

AGENCY: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and 
Research, HUD.

ACTION: Notice of revised fiscal year (FY) 2020 fair market rents 
(FMRs) and discussion of comments on FY 2020 FMRs.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This notice updates the FY 2020 FMRs for six areas based on 
new survey data: Asheville, NC HUD Metro FMR Area (HMFA), Eugene-
Springfield, OR Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA),

[[Page 14236]]

Portland, ME HMFA, Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA MSA, Worcester, MA 
HMFA, and Guam. Further, HUD responds to comments received on the FY 
2020 FMRs.

DATES: Effective Date: The revised FY 2020 FMRs for these six areas are 
effective on April 10, 2020.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Questions on how to conduct FMR 
surveys or concerning further methodological explanations may be 
addressed to Marie L. Lihn or Peter B. Kahn, Program Parameters and 
Research Division, Office of Economic Affairs, Office of Policy 
Development and Research, telephone 202-402-2409. Persons with hearing 
or speech impairments may access this number through TTY by calling the 
toll-free Federal Relay Service at 800-877-8339 (toll-free).
    Questions related to use of FMRs or voucher payment standards 
should be directed to the respective local HUD program staff.
    For technical information on the methodology used to develop FMRs 
or a listing of all FMRs, please call the HUD USER information line at 
800-245-2691 (toll-free) or access the information on the HUD USER 
website: http://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/fmr.html. The FY 2020 
EXCEL files have been updated to include these revised FMRs and this 
data is included in our query system by FMR area. For informational 
purposes, the 50th percentile rents for all FMR areas are updated and 
published at http://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/50per.html.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On August 30, 2019 HUD published the FY 2020 
FMRs, requesting comments on the FY 2020 FMRs, and outlining procedures 
for requesting a reevaluation of an area's FY 2020 FMRs (84 FR 45789). 
This notice revises FY 2020 FMRs for six areas based on data provided 
to HUD. In addition to providing revised FY 2020 FMRs, this notice also 
provides responses to the public comments HUD received on the notice 
referenced above.

I. Revised FY 2020 FMRs

    The FMRs appearing in the following table supersede the use of the 
FY 2019 FMRs for the five areas requesting reevaluation and for Guam, 
which has been using FY 2020 FMRs. The updated FY 2020 FMRs are based 
on surveys conducted by the area public housing agencies (PHAs) and 
reflect the estimated 40th percentile rent levels trended to April 1, 
2020.
    The FMRs for the affected area are revised as follows:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                        FMR by number of bedrooms in unit
                             --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                              2020 Fair market
                                  rent area          0 BR            1 BR            2 BR            3 BR
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----
Asheville, NC HUD Metro FMR             $1,039          $1,045          $1,255          $1,717          $2,203
 Area.......................
Eugene-Springfield, OR MSA..               773             893           1,176           1,696           1,989
Portland, ME HUD Metro FMR               1,072           1,167           1,516           1,982           2,413
 Area.......................
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara,               1,684           1,964           2,324           3,101           3,572
 CA MSA.....................
Worcester, MA HUD Metro FMR              1,013           1,100           1,398           1,742           1,894
 Area.......................
Guam........................               952           1,043           1,374           1,982           2,412
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The FY 2020 FMRs are amended and are available on the HUD USER 
website: http://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/fmr.html. The FY 2020 
Small Area FMRs (SAFMRs) for metropolitan areas with revised FMRs have 
also been updated commensurate with the metropolitan area revisions and 
may be found at https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/fmr/smallarea/index.html.

II. Public Comments on FY 2020 FMRs

    A total of 20 comments were received and posted on regulations.gov, 
https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=HUD-2019-0070. Of the 20 comments 
received, nine were reevaluation requests for nine FMR areas. HUD 
granted requests for reevaluation for 8 FMR areas, and rejected one 
request submitted by a tenant looking for affordable housing in 
Memphis, TN. HUD could not approve this request because the request was 
not made by housing agencies administering more than half of the 
vouchers in the FMR area as required by item 1 in the request for 
reevaluation procedures in the August 30, 2019 Federal Register notice. 
HUD discussed these requests for reevaluation in a posting available at 
https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/fmr/fmr2020/Areas-where-FY2019-
;FMRs-Remain-in-Effect.pdf.
    Public housing agencies in the eight areas where HUD agreed to 
reevaluate the FY 2020 FMRs continued to use FY 2019 FMRs during the 
reevaluation period as mandated by the Housing Opportunities Through 
Modernization Act. Five of these eight areas have continued to use FY 
2019 FMRs since January 10, 2020 because they provided valid survey 
data to revise the FY 2020 FMRs. FY 2020 FMRs became effective on 
January 13, 2020 for the three areas where local survey data was not 
submitted by the January 10, 2020 cut-off date. HUD published a list of 
the three FMR areas not providing data on January 13, 2020 stating that 
the FY 2020 FMRs become effective on January 13, 2020 (https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/fmr/fmr2020/FMR-Areas-Requesting-Re-evaluation-and-No-Data-Submission.pdf). This notice provides the 
reevaluated FY 2020 FMRs for the five areas requesting reevaluation and 
for Guam.

General Comments

    Most of the comments not related to specific areas requesting a 
reevaluation discussed inaccuracies of the FMRs and a need for more 
current and local data. These comments and their responses are 
discussed in greater detail below.
    Comment: Several commenters suggested that HUD should provide 
additional funding to PHAs who undertake local area surveys. One 
comment noted that the cost for address-based mail surveys is in the 
$5,000 to $10,000 range.
    HUD Response: HUD reminds PHAs that paying for local area rent 
surveys is an eligible expense to be paid from on-going administrative 
fees or their administrative fee reserve account. The estimate of 
$5,000 to $10,000 per survey is incorrect. This value is apparently 
based on a study conducted in 2012 for very small metropolitan areas 
with fewer than 20,000 rental units. Far fewer than 100 survey cases 
were acceptable at this time, but no longer because over time HUD has 
imposed a minimum 100 observation requirement to reduce year to year 
fluctuations in FMRs. The cost of the survey increases with the size of 
the FMR, the size of the rental market and the availability and cost of 
good rental market lists.
    Comment: HUD's reliance on setting FMRs at the 40th percentile is 
flawed

[[Page 14237]]

because this only works if there is a normal distribution of rental 
units. Sub-standard housing should be removed from the distribution 
when calculating a 40th percentile rent.
    HUD Response: The purpose of using a percentile instead of an 
average is to account for abnormal distributions. HUD removes responses 
from the American Community Survey (ACS) when the respondent reports 
the unit does not have a complete kitchen or complete plumbing to 
address sub-standard units. In addition, HUD determines a ``public 
housing cut-off rent'' to eliminate the bottom end of the distribution 
of rental units from the ACS before the 40th percentile rent is 
calculated as a proxy to remove units with low rents that are likely in 
non-market transactions (e.g., rented from relatives), subsidized (ACS 
does not ask whether households receive rental subsidies), or are 
otherwise inadequate in some manner not measured by the ACS. HUD uses a 
consistent method to calculate this distribution cut off for each HUD 
region. HUD continues to explore alternatives for removing assisted 
units from the ACS responses before the 40th percentile rent is 
calculated for the purpose of calculating FMRs.
    Comment: HUD needs to conduct its own analysis or research to 
address market anomalies and account for erratic fluctuations in FMRs 
between years and by bedroom size.
    HUD Response: HUD did conduct research into different methods of 
calculating the trend factor and implemented metropolitan and regional 
forecasting into the calculation of the trend factor in the FY 2020 
FMRs.
    To correct erratic fluctuations in FMRs year over year, HUD has 
implemented steps to attenuate the fluctuations found in the annually 
updated survey data. HUD has made methodology changes that call for 
averaging bedroom ratios over three years of data and averaging base 
rents over the same period when the data is limited. The statutory 
directive to use the most recent data available compels HUD to update 
the data behind each area's FMR calculation when new data is released. 
Consequently, FMRs will change from year to year in accordance with 
changes in the underlying survey data. HUD emphasizes that the primary 
data source for FMRs is a survey (ACS) and while surveyors do their 
best to select unbiased random samples of the population, sampling 
error persists within survey statistics.
    Comment: Along with inadequate administrative fees, inadequate FMRs 
result in voucher underutilization nationwide. HUD's methodology for 
setting FMRs also often results in a reduction of choice and in many 
places relegates voucher holders to the poorest areas.
    HUD Response: HUD's methodology for calculating FMRs has been 
revised to improve choice in metropolitan areas through the use of 
Small Area FMRs and in all FMR areas by the use of local or regional 
trend factors as opposed to one national trend factor. Outside the 
voucher program, however, especially for programs that only allow for 
the use of area-wide FMRs, the FMR may cover the cost of units with 
rent above the 40th percentile found in the poorest of areas.
    Comment: HUD should create new administrative mechanisms to cope 
with inaccurate FMRs.
    HUD Response: HUD does have procedures that provide flexibility in 
the voucher program that allow PHAs to keep payment standards constant 
when FMRs decline. For areas where rents increase more rapidly than 
what is captured by the most recent data available to HUD in 
calculating FMRs, the department provides a mechanism for more recent 
data collected in a survey to be supplied to HUD. Lastly, HUD has eased 
the exception payment standard regulations in metropolitan areas to 
allow for the use of up to 110 percent of the Small Area FMR as an 
exception payment standard with no approval needed from HUD. The only 
requirement is for PHAs to notify HUD of their use of Small Area FMRs 
in this manner. New administrative procedures would have to be 
developed by the programs other than the Housing Choice Voucher program 
to allow for use of payment standards to provide additional 
flexibility. Each program required to use FMRs without similar 
flexibility to payment standards would have to amend its regulations to 
allow for flexible application of FMRs if statute permits.
    Comment: Adjustments to FMRs must be followed by the commensurate 
adjustments in the Renewal Funding Inflation Factors (RFIF), 
particularly in the years following rapid growth and increase in the 
FMR.
    HUD Response: HUD includes revised FMRs in that year's RFIFs. This 
gives those areas that provided new survey data with an increase in 
their RFIF in the first year over what they would have had under the 
FMRs without the revision. In subsequent years, while the survey is 
still effective, their FMRs will only increase by normal factors, and 
the RFIFs change accordingly.
    Comment: Proper consideration is not being paid by HUD to rapidly 
escalating market rents; HUD should tie FMR calculations to the 
qualifier provided in Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis (CMHA) and 
other such publications. The qualifiers include economy, sales market 
and rental market and include categorical ranking and description that 
give more insight into local market conditions than older census survey 
data.
    HUD Response: HUD's Comprehensive Housing Market Analysis (CHMA) 
and other such publications are undertaken primarily to assess the 
demand for construction of new housing units over a three-year market 
horizon. Moreover, CHMAs are not conducted in all areas and are 
typically not annually updated. Finally, the area over which a CHMA is 
conducted is at the discretion of HUD's Field Economist organization 
and may not align with FMR area boundaries. This is to ensure the 
construction demand estimates provided in the CHMAs are targeted 
appropriately. These reasons make CHMAs a poor source of data for 
calculating FMRs. Finally, the FY 2020 appropriations statute directs 
HUD to undertake a research study to determine alternative methods for 
calculating FMRs in markets with rapidly rising rents. HUD is in the 
initial stages of beginning this research effort and expects to have 
the research completed sometime in 2021.
    Comment: HUD should increase transparency of the FMR calculation, 
especially for FMR areas that are based on local rent surveys. Unless 
full transparency is provided into the calculations and methodology 
used in determining FMRs, the argument that HUD cannot use private data 
is invalid. HUD should publish a forecast at 6 months into the year of 
the trend factor, so agencies are given plenty of time to plan a rent 
survey or deal with other negative impacts to funding.
    HUD Response: For the FY 2020 FMRs, HUD modified its Documentation 
System to provide better information for areas that receive an FMR 
based on current or past surveys.
    Comment: HUD should continue to refine its methodology for 
calculating FMRs. A high priority should be placed on improving the 
data that is used to derive more accurate FMRs. HUD should explore 
``scraping'' local rent data or purchase this data for access to rents 
in newer Class A properties. HUD should use more timely data when 
calculating FMRs. In addition, HUD needs to use data to exclude rent 
controlled units from FMR calculations. Other than various private data 
sources, HUD could enter into an interagency agreement with the IRS to 
get

[[Page 14238]]

information on monthly rent and size of units from landlord tax 
filings.
    HUD Response: There is no other data on gross rents paid that is 
consistently collected on a nationwide basis, available to HUD, that is 
more current than the data we receive through the ACS. Proprietary 
rental data cannot be used as the basis for the FMR calculations 
because it is not consistently available for all areas and is not 
collected in such a way that it is statistically representative of the 
rental markets it covers. Some of these sources focus on rents for 
major apartment projects only. Additionally, rents for single family 
homes, which are at least 30 percent of the rental market in major 
metropolitan areas and a greater portion in rural areas, are typically 
compiled from internet-based ads, or the small subset of professionally 
managed single-family rental units and generally are not representative 
of the entire rental stock of single family homes. Online listings of 
rents are similar to newspaper ads which have been excluded as a source 
of rent data for FMRs since the mid-1980s due to a directive issued by 
HUD's Inspector General because they do not constitute a statistically 
representative sample of the rental market for an area.
    HUD can only exclude rent control units if it has some basis for 
determining the scope of rents in an area that are governed by rent 
control.
    The Federal Government invests a substantial amount of resources in 
collecting socio-economic data through the American Community Survey 
(ACS). Furthermore, the Census Bureau has statutory advantages in 
compelling responses to the ACS and receives significantly higher 
response rates than HUD could achieve if it was to undertake its own 
survey program. The IRS is prohibited by law from releasing taxpayer 
information such as rental income, even to other Federal agencies.
    Comment: HUD should use the 2017 American Community Survey data to 
compare the gross rent by FMR area to the FY 2017 FMRs to determine 
accuracy of FMRs and report back to the industry.
    HUD Response: HUD undertook an analysis such as this and reported 
the results in a recent report to Congress. Please see the section 
labeled ``Accuracy of FMRs'' in HUD's report ``Proposals To Update the 
Fair Market Rent Formula'', page 3, available at https://www.huduser.gov/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/Proposals-To-Update-the-Fair-Market-Rent-Formula.pdf. Between 2009 and 2016 for areas with 
sufficiently large ACS recent mover rental unit samples, the ACS-
measured 40th percentile gross rents were within 90 to 110 percent of 
the published FMRs in 83.4 to 94.3 percent of cases. These results do 
not adjust for more recent improvements in the FMR estimation method.

III. Environmental Impact

    This Notice involves establishment of a rate and does not 
constitute a development decision affecting the physical condition of 
specific project areas or building sites. Accordingly, under 24 CFR 
50.19(c)(6), this Notice is categorically excluded from environmental 
review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 
4321).

    Dated: March 5, 2020.
Todd M. Richardson,
General Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Policy Development and 
Research.
[FR Doc. 2020-04996 Filed 3-10-20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4210-67-P