For Inter-municipal groups or service providers working towards establishing an SHSO, identifying the services to be provided and the cost to deliver those services is a key part of the exploration process. Some municipalities do not want/need some services, and some service providers do not offer all services, so the pricing must be flexible. SHSO services can vary depending on the community's needs but could be broken into the following basic categories:
- Affordable housing inventory creation, upkeep, and tracking
- Ongoing compliance monitoring
- Local Support: member community technical assistance, training, and education
- Regional housing opportunity clearinghouse and resident services
Inventory Creation and Tracking
The service provider's first task is to work with member municipalities to create an inventory of existing developments and individual affordable homes in each community. SHSO staff can do a lot of this work on their own using public information, and review with the municipality for gaps and missing information.
Start with the Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI)
The inventory is comprised of two key components: (1) rental properties and (2) ownership units. A good place to start is the itemized Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI) maintained by the Department of Housing and Community Development. The inventory should include the project name (or address for single properties), tenure (rental/ownership); subsidizing agency (DHCD, MassHousing, MHP, MassDevelopment) property manager; the date that affordability restriction expires, and registry book and page. Identify housing authority units, making sure to identify the state or federal program (Chapter 667-Elderly housing, Chapter 705-Family Housing, Chapter 689-Special Needs/Disabilities)
A sample rental and homeownership Inventory template can be found here.
Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI) Management
The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) maintains the SHI (Subsidized Housing Inventory). This is a detailed listing each of property that meets the criteria to be counted towards a community's 10% 40B threshold. DHCD's 40B Guidelines detail the specific eligibility requirements for new units to be included (See Section 2A in the 40B Guidelines). The SHSO services include the municipal analysis and management of the SHI, including:
- Adding new units as they become eligible with the Requesting New Units Form from DHCD
- Reviewing units due to expire from the SHI
- Estimating changes to the SHI with new developments and/or changes in the denominator
Tracking unit eligibility
In order to accurately track a community's SHI status, it is important to become deeply familiar with DHCD requirements for SHI eligibility, including the timing for when units "come on" or "come off" the SHI throughout the development process.
If more than 12 months elapse between the zoning approval and the issuance of the building permits, the units will become ineligible for the SHI until the date that the certificate of occupancy is issued. Similarly, if more than 18 months elapse between the issuance of the building permit and issuance of the certificate of occupancy, the units will become ineligible for the SHI until the date that the certificate of occupancy is issued. See the sidebar to the right to learn when a unit can go on the SHI.
Monitoring and Why it Matters
For the three existing SHSOs, monitoring the ongoing compliance of affordable units is a foundational role. Active monitoring is required to ensure that the terms of the affordability restriction around limits on housing cost and eligibility requirements for residents remain in force. If a municipality does not actively monitor its affordable housing, it risks losing credit for those units on the SHI, not to mention the loss of a valuable opportunity for an income-eligible household. However, most municipalities do not have this expertise in-house. Indeed, several SHSO communities noted they would have lost SHI units if not for the monitoring and administration by SHSO staff.
The SHSO's primary monitoring responsibility is for affordable homes created through the DHCD's Local Initiative Program (LIP), either through a LIP comprehensive permit or as a Local Action Unit (LAU), the HOME Program, or other local programs that might specifically assign the monitoring role to the municipality. For other types of restricted affordable housing, including Housing Authority properties, other state and federally subsidized housing, or 40B projects that did not get approval through the LIP program, other provisions for monitoring are in place. For example, MassHousing has a comprehensive third-party monitoring program for all 40B homeownership units for which they serve as a subsidizing agency. That said, many municipalities are interested in making sure that adequate monitoring is taking place for all affordable units in the community. In these cases, therefore, it is recommended that the SHSO review the Regulatory Agreement to identify the designated monitoring agency, and periodically confirm that proactive monitoring is occurring.
Annual monitoring requirements depend on the unit tenure (ownership or rental).
LIP rental units:
- Approve annual rents as requested by the developer (usually occurs when the income limits are issued by HUD)
- Request and review annual report from the developer to ensure that rents charged are within the approved limits and that the tenants remain income-eligible. A sample letter can be found here.
- Submit annual certification to DHCD
Best Practice: Review a sampling (10%-20%) of the tenant files maintained by the property manager to ensure that third-party source income documentation is used in income certification according to regulations
LIP Homeownership units:
- For annual certification, send self-certification letters to each owner asking them to confirm that the units continue to be their primary residence and that they are aware that the units are subject to a deed restriction. A sample self-certification form for the homeowners can be found here.
- Review and approve requests for refinancing and capital improvements.
- For resales, work closely with the resale agent (assigned by DHCD) to ensure that resales are done in accordance with the provisions set forth in the Deed Rider.
- Submit annual certification to DHCD
Best Practice: It is strongly recommended that the monitoring agent periodically review the Registry of Deeds to ensure that unapproved sales or refinancing have not occurred.
Depending on the needs of the member communities, SHSO's can be tapped to support a variety of municipal housing efforts. Some examples include:
Board and Committee Assistance: SHSO staff may be asked to provide direct assistance and expertise to Municipal Affordable Housing Trusts, Housing Partnerships, Planning Boards, and others on municipal development projects, Housing Production Plans, proposed zoning amendments, 40B and special permit project review; development of Local Preference justification.
Program Administration: This varies by community, but could potentially include administration of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) or HOME programs, as well as the establishment and management of locally-funded rental assistance, buy-down, or small grant programs
Special Projects: The member communities may have any number of projects and initiatives active at any given time. SHSO staff may be able to assist directly or assist through providing referrals to more technical support.
Regional Programming: SHSOs provide a unique opportunity for member communities to participate in shared training opportunities and to benefit from the opportunity to share resources, information, and "lessons learned."
Regional Housing Clearinghouse Services
An SHSO can provide a tremendous resource for current and future residents seeking affordable housing opportunities, as well as for sellers and property managers looking for buyers and tenants. This kind of support requires the maintenance of a detailed listing of housing opportunities. SHSO staff should become familiar with lottery agents and property managers servicing the area, and periodically review their websites for current openings. SHSO's can also, with DHCD approval, develop "Ready Renter" and "Ready Buyer" lists of prequalified buyers and tenants to provide a pool of qualified applicants when opportunities do become available.