HUD issues final regulations on 55-and-over housing HUD has issued final regulations on the revised exemption for elderly housing from the Fair Housing Act's prohibition on discrimination against families with children. Under this exemption, housing complexes can refuse to admit families with children if they are developed under a government program for seniors, if they are intended exclusively for occupancy by persons 62 and older, or if at least 80% of the units will be occupied by at least one person 55 or older.

The rules implement 1995 legislation modifying the 55-and-over exemption. The major change was the elimination of the requirement that projects provide "significant facilities and services" for the elderly.

The 1995 amendments also require projects to publish and follow policies and procedures demonstrating the intent to provide 55-and-over housing and to comply with HUD regulations on the verification of occupancy by eligible households. Factors that can indicate an intent to provide housing for the 55-and-over population include advertising, lease provisions, written rules and covenants, and posted statements.

Occupancy can be verified by a variety of documents, including a driver's license, birth certificate, passport, immigration card, military identification, any other official documents containing a birth date or a certification by any adult household member that at least one person in the household meets the age requirement. A housing project which does not meet the 80% occupancy requirement can attempt to meet that requirement by reserving vacant units for 55-and-over households.

However, if the project does not meet the 80% requirement by April 2, 2000, vacant units will have to be opened to families with children. Also, families with children can not be evicted to make room for older households.

Section 8 income targeting regulations proposed by HUD The 1998 housing act tightened targeting requirements for the Section 8 rent subsidy program, establishing set-asides for a new category of "extremely low-income" households with incomes no higher than 30% of area median.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has published proposed regulations implementing those provisions, which require at least 75% of new annual admissions to the Section 8 tenant-based program to be made up of extremely low-income families. For developments with project-based assistance, at least 40% of the new admissions each year must be in the extremely low-income category.

The Section 8 rent subsidy program will focus on extremely low-income families. The regulations would also codify a provision of the 1998 act repealing federal admission preferences for applicants who are displaced involuntarily, living in substandard housing or paying more than 50% of their income for rent.

Those preferences have been suspended since fiscal 1996 through congressional action in annual appropriations bills, but their elimination is now permanent. The rules would also eliminate the preference for elderly, disabled and displaced single households over other single persons.

While removing federal preferences, the law and regulations will still allow public housing agencies to establish their own local admission preferences for the Section 8 tenant-based program. Also, owners of properties with project-based Section 8 could provide a preference for working families, though the preference could not be based on the amount of income.

Labor department proposes Davis-Bacon rules on helpers The U.S. Department of Labor has issued proposed rules on the use of "helpers" on federally assisted construction projects covered by the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires contractors to pay construction workers at least the prevailing wage for the area for workers in their job classification.

In the 1980s, the Republican administration attempted to establish a separate classification for semi-skilled helpers, who would be paid lower rates than skilled journeymen, though their duties would overlap. Regulations issued then would have allowed the establishment of a helper classification where the use of helpers was an identifiable practice in the area, with the number of helpers to be limited to two for every three journeymen. Organized labor opposed the regulations, and they were blocked by a combination of litigation and legislation.

The Clinton Administration has now decided to reinstate the old policy on helpers. Accordingly, the proposed rules would allow a helper classification to be established only when the use of helpers is determined to be a prevailing practice in the area, the duties of a helper are clearly distinguishable from those of a journeyman, and helpers are not simply trainees in informal training programs.

The Labor Department considers the proposed rules more consistent with the Davis-Bacon Act's intent.

"This approach retains the duties-based classification distinction that provides an objective basis for administration and enforcement," the Labor Department noted. "It is also consistent with the intent of the Davis-Bacon Act to assure that workers employed on federal and federally assisted construction work be paid at least the wages paid to workers doing similar work on similar construction in the area."