Cuomo moves ahead with HUD reform plans Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo is moving ahead with plans to reform HUD, revising the field office structure in an effort to improve program administration.

Cuomo's HUD 2020 Management Reform Plan calls for the establishment of several operations centers, with responsibility for major administrative functions. In addition, responsibility for various program operations will be consolidated in specific field offices.

Three of the key offices are the Assessment Center, which will handle financial and physical evaluations of HUD-assisted housing; the Enforcement Center, which will be responsible for enforcement actions against housing projects that fail physical or financial inspections, as well as fair housing enforcement; and the Section 8 Financial Management Center, which will handle Section 8 payments.

The Financial Management Center will be located in Kansas City, Mo., and Cuomo initially planned to place the Assessment Center and Enforcement Center in Coral Gables, Fla., and New York, respectively. When questions were raised about the wisdom of moving these operations away from HUD headquarters, however, Cuomo changed his mind, at least temporarily. Accordingly, the Assessment and Enforcement Centers will be located in Washington for at least two years, a decision that HUD says will minimize any logistical and operational problems in setting up the centers.

"The Enforcement Center and the Assessment Center are the foundations of our plan to restore public trust in this department," Cuomo said. "It is important that we move forward in the siting and operation of these centers as quickly as possible."

Under the reform plan, Federal Housing Administration-insured multifamily mortgage activities will be administered by 33 operations centers, which in turn will be supervised by 18 multifamily hubs. The reform plan will involve a reduction in HUD personnel from the current level of about 10,000 to 7,500 by 2002. The department estimates that the plan will result in net savings through fiscal 2012 with a present value of $1.4 billion.

HUD outlines policies for Section 8 contract renewals HUD has spelled out its policies for renewing project-based Section 8 rental assistance contracts in fiscal 1998. Owners who want to continue to participate in the program can have their housing assistance payments (HAP) contracts renewed for one year.

Rents will generally be capped at 120% of fair market rent (FMR). If current rents exceed 120% of FMR, the owner will be responsible for a study comparing the Section 8 rents with rents for comparable unassisted projects.

If the study shows that current rents are below comparable rents, the Section 8 contract can be renewed at current rents. If the current rents exceed comparable rents, the rents must be reduced to 120% of FMR when the contract is renewed.

Many projects developed under the old Section 236 interest subsidy program also have Section 8 assistance under HUD's loan management program. Under Section 236, tenants must pay at least the basic rent, which is the rent based on a 1% mortgage. In cases where the basic rent exceeds 120% of FMR, the Section 8 contract will be renewed at the basic rent.

Owners of Section 8 moderate rehabilitation projects are eligible for contract renewal if the project contains at least five units, though the Section 8 contract doesn't have to cover that many units.

Clinton announces 'Make 'Em Pay' plan to fight hate crimes President Clinton has announced a "Make 'Em Pay" plan to fight housing-related hate crimes with higher fines and stepped-up enforcement.

"The Fair Housing Act says every family in this nation has the right to live in any neighborhood and in any home they can afford," Clinton said. "Our message to those who violate this law is simple: If you try to take this right away, we will make you pay."

The plan calls for closer cooperation between HUD and the Department of Justice, allowing each agency to move faster in filing housing discrimination charges and steeper penalties for multiple acts of discrimination.

HUD has proposed regulations that would allow administrative law judges (ALJs) to consider housing-related hate acts involving threats or violence as a basis for imposing the maximum allowable civil penalties. In addition, when multiple discriminatory acts are committed by the same respondent, a separate maximum penalty could be imposed for each act.

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