Reg Watch

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has proposed changes to the HOME Investment Partnerships Program for affordable housing.

HUD would like to amend the grant requirements for the program, increase oversight of grant awards and expand opportunities for the disabled and mentally ill. 

The proposal is awaiting approval from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which reviews regulations for the administration. 

The process of updating the HOME program began last December with a proposed rule that received 321 comments, many of them expressing support for the reforms, though some of the specific changes were criticized.

The HOME program is the largest bloc grant awarded by the federal government, disbursing approximately $2 billion annually to states and cities for affordable housing.

In a comment on the proposal, the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) said that while the program has been effective, “updating the regulations is long overdue.” 

The NAHB disagreed with one change that would require grant-funded affordable units not sold within six months of the completion of construction or renovation to be transformed into rental properties. 

“This is impractical and unrealistic,” the group’s letter to HUD stated. 

The NAHB supported other provisions, including ones that grant greater oversight to the disbursement of grants and counseling to HOME-assisted buyers, which would cover issues surrounding the financing and resale of a home.

The city of New Orleans supported changes that would allow for more flexibility in HOME grants used for “disaster mitigation.” The city supports HUD’s broadened definition of “reconstruction.” 

“The expansion … will make it easier to replace and rebuild housing after a disaster,” wrote Brian Lawlor, the director of housing policy and community development for New Orleans.

Other municipal groups and corporations specializing in affordable community housing pushed back on regulations that would require homes to be sold at an average price for the surrounding area. They said that requirement would prevent the recovery of some foreclosure-ravaged neighborhoods where prices remain at historic lows.

US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE: The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service  has determined that pork products from northern Italy do not carry swine vesicular disease, a variation of foot-and-mouth disease.

The first phase of the investigation, which began in the late 1990s, found that eight regions in northern Italy were free of swine vesicular disease before an outbreak occurred in four of them. 

The subsequent study in central-northern Italy recently revealed that Lombardia, Emilio-Romagna, Veneto, Piemonte, Trento and Bolzano were free of the disease, but because of their proximity to previously infected areas, pork products imported to the United States will still undergo additional scrutiny. Public comments on the plan will be accepted until Feb. 18, 2013.

FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board  will hold public meetings on Jan. 10 and 11 to discuss ways to make prescription drug labels more effective for the blind and visually impaired.

Options to be considered include “Braille, large print labels and various auditory technologies such as ‘talking bottles’ and radio frequency identification tags.” 

The Food and Drug Administration set up the compliance board.