Tag Archives: COVID-19

COVID-19 Emergency Rent Bridge

During this challenging and uncertain time, it’s more important than ever to have sustainable housing. To help individuals and families who are experiencing a loss of income due to COVID-19, the state of North Dakota has created an Emergency Rent Bridge.

To qualify, renters must be experiencing an economic hardship that is COVID-related, have a lease and limited savings and other resources, and be income qualified. A month-to-month lease is acceptable.

To determine eligibility, renters complete a survey that provides qualified households with a preliminary approval via email. The renter shares this email with their housing provider to indicate that they have applied for rental assistance. To actually receive the assistance, the renter is required to verify their income and available resources. The Rent Bridge staff reviews the application and, if they qualify, the renter receives an Emergency Rent Bridge Confirmation ID Number to facilitate payment.

Before a housing provider receives the payment, they must create a vendor account in ND’s Office of Management and Budget Supplier Registry. The account is used to validate the rent due for each renter who applies for assistance. Only one vendor account is needed unless a housing provider manages multiple properties that each have a different bank account.

To learn more about the Rent Bridge, visit the program’s website, http://www.nd.gov/dhs/info/covid-19/rent-bridge.html. The site outlines the processes for both renters and housing providers, includes a FAQs document, flyers that can be shared with renters who are struggling to pay the rent, and the income and rent limits.

Inspection and Monitoring Protocol Updates in Response to COVID-19

North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) is aware of and is monitoring the COVID-19 situation in North Dakota. In response to concerns related to the virus, the agency has implemented the following protocol for inspections and monitoring of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, Housing Trust Fund, Housing Incentive Fund, Neighborhood Stabilization Program, FDIC Affordable Housing Program, Rural Rehab Loan Program, Rural Housing Investment Incentive Pilot Program and Law Enforcement Pilot Program properties.

Affordability/Compliance Period Physical Inspections and File Monitoring (As of 3/18/2020)

  • Physical inspections will be postponed until further notice.
  • Tenant file review will continue to be conducted electronically using secure upload options provided in review requests.

Annual Owner Certification/Annual Desk Review Requests (As of 3/18/2020)

  • There will be no interruption in reviewing 2019 Annual Owner Certifications and Annual Rental Compliance Reporting.

Resident Certifications (Updated 03/23/2020)

  • Utilizing tenant provided documents regarding income and assets is acceptable when a third party is not an option due to COVID-19 shutdowns. Tenants can provide documents electronically or via mail.
  • If a tenant provided document is not readily available, last recourse is utilizing self-certifications. This is not recommended for initial occupancy.
  • Utilize annual social security benefit award letters or “received” date stamps to prolong the life of verification; document the file accordingly and include COLA increase as necessary.
  • Allow scanned or photocopied documents to be submitted for verifications as a temporary bookmark in the file. When threat subsides, obtain original document.
  • Move-in certifications and annual recertifications may be completed electronically with the following requirements.
  • Content may be entered electronically by residents on certification forms.
  • Signatures by residents and management on certification forms, including the Tenant Income Certification (TIC), may be completed electronically as long as each signature is authenticated and date- and time-stamped by the software. A TIC that completes the authenticated date- and time-stamped requirement is available on our website under LIHTC Rental Compliance Forms
  • Typed and unauthenticated signatures are not permitted.
  • If tenants are unable to provide signatures in the authenticated date- and time-stamped software, notate the file appropriately as to why signatures are unavailable and obtain at soonest availability.
  • If available, you may want to consider using building drop boxes in the interim.

Evictions (3/23/2020)

  • While NDHFA has not received any guidance with regard to the moratorium on evictions, a reminder that evictions for other than good cause are prohibited. Follow the guidance and prohibitions of your local area.

Utility Allowances (03/23/2020)
Utility allowances are still required to be updated annually.

Income and Rent Limits (03/23/2020)
NDHFA is anticipating that U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will release new income limits on or around April 1, 2020. If there is a delay, NDHFA will publish the updated limits as soon as the information is released by HUD.

Other Federal Laws (03/23/2020) At this time, NDHFA is not aware of any waivers of the requirements of the Federal Fair Housing Act, the Violence Against Women Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act. Your property must continue to make reasonable accommodations and process transfer requests related to disabilities or VAWA protections.

Vacant Program Units (03/23/2020) Vacant program units must still be leased to qualified households. At this time, there is no relief to use program units for any other purpose, even if related to COVID-19.

Occupancy Standards (03/23/2020) We have received several inquiries on whether Management Companies of LIHTC properties can modify or relax their occupancy standards and policies on overnight guests so that tenants can better respond to their family needs related to stable temporary housing.

To the extent that the policies are addressed in your current Tenant Selection Plan, lease or house rules, NDHFA has no objection to the relaxing of this standard on a temporary basis (not to exceed 120 days), since these issues do not impact LIHTC eligibility. However, properties do need to be mindful of local ordinances, the requirements of their investors and other lenders, as well as guidance issued by the CDC related to the current crisis.

We recognize the challenge property owners and landlords find themselves in trying to balance tenant and applicant requests for flexibility while being mindful of protecting their residents and staff.

NDHFA staff are accessible at this time. Email communication via our general account, hfainfo@nd.gov, or directly to staff is the most effective method to reach us with questions or concerns.

HUD has published a guide, https://www.hud.gov/coronavirus, for Public Housing, Housing Choice Voucher, and Project-Based Voucher Program and Native American Programs and the Office of Multifamily Housing. Even if your program is not specifically related to the programs listed, the general information is valuable to any affordable housing project.

We encourage you to work with your tenants to communicate processes of ensuring health and safety and any policies you are implementing during this time.

How To Make a Payment While NDHFA is Closed to Public

While North Dakota Housing Finance Agency’s (NDHFA) Bismarck office lobby is closed to the public, the agency is still accepting payments in our drop box located on the East side of our building. If you need a receipt, make a note on your payment and NDHFA will mail a receipt to your address on record.

You can also utilize our website, www.ndhfa.org, to make payments electronically. If you do not have a web account, use the “Sign up now” link on our website to establish one.

You can continue to mail your payments to us via US Mail. If you are on automatic payments those payments will continue uninterrupted.

If you need assistance, contact NDHFA’s Servicing Department via phone, (800) 292-8621 or (701) 328-8080, or by e-mail, hfaservicing@nd.gov.

Housing Agency Urges North Dakotans to Talk to Your Mortgage Servicer or Landlord First; Don’t Become a Victim of a Financial Scam

BISMARCK, ND – North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) is encouraging households facing financial difficulties because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) to notify their mortgage loan servicer or landlord if they are unable to make their mortgage or rent payment.

“Our loan servicing department has fielded multiple calls and emails from individuals and families who are facing financial difficulties because of virus-related shutdowns,” said Dave Flohr, NDHFA interim executive director. “We want our borrowers to keep calling us. Now is the time to talk to the people you can trust.”

Scams, especially financial scams, increase during times of crisis. Many offer false claims of assistance. While some offers of assistance are legitimate, many are not.

Red flags include:
• Guarantees that a business can stop a foreclosure or eviction, regardless of circumstances.
• Asking for payment before any services are performed.
• Instructions to make mortgage or rent payment to someone else, not to your loan servicer or landlord.
• Asking you to sign incomplete or blank paperwork or pressuring you to sign a document you have not had time to read thoroughly.

“North Dakota Housing Finance Agency holds the mortgages of more than 10,000 North Dakota families; many are first-time homebuyers,” said Flohr. “When our borrowers receive a counseling or refinance offer, we encourage them to talk to our staff first. We can help them determine if an offer is in their best interest.”

NDHFA also administers government programs that provide affordable rental housing for thousands of lower income individuals and families. These units are typically occupied by low-wage workers, and elderly and disabled households.

Households who are not NDHFA customers should contact their loan servicer or landlord directly. Mortgage loan servicers provide their contact information on monthly statements or in a payment coupon book. Contact information for landlords is typically provided on a lease. Some property management companies post their contact information at building entrances as well.

A self-supporting state agency, NDHFA is dedicated to making housing affordable for all North Dakotans. The Industrial Commission of North Dakota, consisting of Governor Doug Burgum as chairman, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, oversees the agency.

Opening Doors Monthly Check-In Protocol Updated

In response to guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19), North Dakota Housing Finance Agency is recommending Opening Doors Program Care Coordinators follow their organization’s guidelines in regard to in-home visits until further notice.

“We expect that you will continue communicating with your clients and complete monthly reports,” said Planning and Housing Development Division Director Jennifer Henderson. “If your visit is via an alternative arrangement such as phone or teleconference, please note that on the report.”

The Opening Doors program provides households with a rental barrier access to housing. Participating Care Coordinators are required to check-in with the households supported by the program on a monthly basis.

Questions should be directed to the Planning and Housing Development Division at (800) 292-8621 or hfainfo@nd.gov.

Developers Urged to Mail or Upload HIF Applications

North Dakota Housing Finance Agency is maintaining the March 31, 2020, application deadline established for the current funding round for the Housing Incentive Fund (HIF) program.

Because the office is currently closed to the public in response to the Coronavirus threat, the agency is asking developers to submit HIF applications electronically or by mail.

If you have questions or need assistance with the application process, contact the Planning and Housing Development Division at (800) 292-8621 or hfainfo@nd.gov.

From the Interim Executive Director, March 2020

While North Dakota Housing Finance Agency’s (NDHFA) doors are still open to the public, we are adhering to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ND Dept. of Health.

For the safety of our staff, our housing partners and customers, the agency is limiting visitor interactions and encouraging you to call or email us before coming to our office. Some of our staff members are working remotely. The staff members who are here have taken on additional duties to support the remote workers and are only available for brief visits. If the agency is required to close our doors to the public, we will notify you through as many channels as possible – email, web, social media, newsletter, etc.

Events we had planned for this spring have been canceled or accommodations are being made.

Our Multifamily Housing Forum is called-off and won’t be rescheduled for later this year. We’ll move some of the topics to next year’s event, planned for April 15, 2021, at the Ramkota in Bismarck and try to schedule webinars or conference calls for the topics that can’t wait.

We are trying to reschedule the Uniform Physical Conditions Standards training that was scheduled to take place in conjunction with the forum. We’ll provide details when that is accomplished.

The agency is offering an online or phone option for our Housing Trust Fund and Low Income Housing Tax Credit Public Hearings scheduled to take place on March 26th. Written comments are still being accepted as well.

Our rental compliance staff has postponed physical inspections until further notice. File reviews and compliance reporting continues. If you have questions about compliance activity, please contact the staff via email.

Finally, we are concerned about our tenants and borrowers. Many North Dakota households are faced with financial hardships because of virus related closures. We are reminding the individuals and families who rely on NDHFA for a safe place to call home and households beyond our jurisdiction to talk to their landlord or mortgage servicer first if they will have a difficult time making rent and loan payments.

Inspections Postponed; File Reviews and Reporting Continues

inspectionprotocol

North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) is monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation in North Dakota. In response to concerns related to the virus, the agency is implementing the following protocol for inspections and monitoring of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, Housing Trust Fund, Housing Incentive Fund, Neighborhood Stabilization Program, FDIC Affordable Housing Program, Rural Rehab Loan Program, Rural Housing Investment Incentive Pilot Program and Law Enforcement Pilot Program properties.

Affordability/Compliance Period Physical Inspections and File Monitoring

  • Physical inspections will be postponed until further notice.
  • Tenant file review will continue to be conducted electronically using secure upload options provided in review requests.

Annual Owner Certification/Annual Desk Review Requests

  • There will be no interruption in reviewing 2019 Annual Owner Certifications and Annual Rental Compliance Reporting.

NDHFA staff are accessible at this time. Email communication via our general account, hfainfo@nd.gov, or directly to staff is the most effective method to reach us with questions or concerns.

HUD has published a guide, https://www.hud.gov/coronavirus, for Public Housing, Housing Choice Voucher, and Project-Based Voucher Program and Native American Programs and the Office of Multifamily Housing. Even if your program is not specifically related to the programs listed, the general information is valuable to any affordable housing project.

We encourage you to work with your tenants to communicate processes of ensuring health and safety and any policies you are implementing during this time.

Online/Phone Options for LIHTC and HTF Hearings

North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) will hold Public Hearings for the 2021 Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program Qualified Allocation Plan and the 2020 National Housing Trust Fund (HTF) Allocation Plan on March 26, 2020.

The LIHTC hearing will begin at 10 a.m. and the HTF hearing at 11 a.m., both CT. The hearings will be held in the boardroom at NDHFA’s office, 2624 Vermont Ave., Bismarck, ND.

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) public gathering guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we encourage attendees to join the meeting online from your personal computer, tablet or smartphone.

Online Access: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/434537269

Dial-in Access: 1-877-568-4106, Access Code: 434-537-269 #

Persons who are unable to attend the hearings may still submit written comments to hfainfo@nd.gov or NDHFA, PO Box 1535, Bismarck, ND 58502-1535, by 5:00 p.m. on March 25, 2020.

Persons needing accommodation or assistance to attend the hearing should contact NDHFA’s Planning and Housing Development division director at (800) 292-8621, (800) 366-6888 (TTY) or email hfainfo@nd.gov.