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Monday, October 27, 2014

Tips for working with HUD's new consolidated plan format

For HUD entitlement grantees submitting a consolidated plan ("ConPlan") this year or later, HUD has implemented a new format and process, called the "eCon Planning Suite". Gone are the long narratives with redundant section headings, and the incomprehensible CHAS tables. ConPlans can now be created and submitted within IDIS online, on forms with specific questions and prompts. Here are some tips on efficiently completing your ConPlan in the eCon Planning Suite and meeting HUD requirements.
  • The IDIS form has numerous screens, so it is easy to get disoriented. You can export the entire application to Word (button at the top of the main menu). That way you will have everything in one document. You can write your narratives in Word, proof-read and spellcheck, and then paste them back into IDIS. It's also a good idea to have the Word doc as a backup in case there are website problems. You can also use Word to copy and paste questions for consultation with others, as described below.
  • The IDIS form includes a section where you describe your process of consulting with others on the ConPlan (government agencies, nonprofits, etc.). In addition, you are required to get input on a number of sections. I recommend you copy and paste these questions from your Word version into emails and send to those you want to consult with early in the process. A list:
    • NA-10- Organizations serving victims of domestic violence, and serving low-income families with children
    • NA-40, MA-30- local Continuum of Care, shelters
    • NA-45- Organization serving persons with HIV/AIDS
    • NA-50- Public Works Dept.- need for public facilities, services and improvements
    • MA-25- Housing Authority- public housing units
    • MA-35- Organizations serving persons with special needs, mental disabilities
    • MA-45- Economic development organizations, CDFIs, community colleges- economic impacts, workforce needs and training
  • HUD has saved you a lot of time by pre-populating most of the tables with data from the Census, Labor Dept., and other sources. However, be aware, the data is old- 2011 old. Most communities have changed quite a bit since the low-point of the recession, so you need to make readers aware that this is not realtime information. It is a point-in-time snapshot. You might want to explain this in the introduction staff reports, and describe some ways that the community has changed in the last three years. You can add 2012 Census information, but it is still old. I will save time by using what is provided and providing a narrative in the introduction.
  • HUD has launched a companion mapping tool called CPD Maps to help you research demographic, economic and housing data. You can then easily upload thematic maps and spreadsheets to the IDIS ConPlan form as attachments. A feature that I am using compares your local geographic area to larger geographic areas, such as a city to the county, state and nation. To do this, click on "Data Toolkit" on the menu bar, then enter the geographies into the popup window. After you download the spreadsheet, first select your target jurisdiction on the Control Panel tab (cell shaded green). Then on each of the other tabs, you can select the geographies to compare to your jurisdiction among the pull down list in each column header. The HUD Exchange website has posted guidance on using CPD Maps.  
  • Community outreach is an essential part of the ConPlan, and HUD has emphasized the importance of reaching out to low-income, special needs and racial minority groups in its guidance. They have warned that if this is not done adequately, you may be required to go back and redo that section. There are a number of questions about outreach in the new IDIS form. Some recommendations:
    • Translate fliers into 2-3 of the other non-English languages in your area and distribute them to local housing and service providers, local government offices and libraries. Electronic media will not reach many low-income, homeless and/or non-English speakers. Use trusted communication channels for the groups you are trying to reach.
    • Plan at least a couple workshops targeted to low-income groups and hold them where they live. For example, I will have a workshop at a transitional housing complex for formerly homeless families, and a workshop at an SRO, where many of the residents have disabilities. In the past, we have also done workshops at the emergency shelter and affordable housing complexes. 
    • In addition to the focused workshops, hold at least a couple general community meetings.
    • Develop an email address list and send out regular e-newsletters to update on progress and remind about upcoming meetings. I have found that direct emails are much more effective than Facebook or Twitter for temporary outreach campaigns like ConPlans or Housing Elements.
    • Document everything for HUD- fliers, emails, ads, sign-in sheets, agendas and notes.
  • Remember that your first year's Annual Plan is included in the ConPlan. This is section "AP" in the IDIS main index. HUD hasn't issued 2015 allocations yet, so you will need to use your best projection for the budget. See the CPD Notice 14-015 for more information about the allocation and Annual Plan schedule.
Find additional guidance on using the new eCon Planning Suite here. Good luck with it! I think you'll find it much less cumbersome than the old ConPlan format.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Latest HUD Developments for Continuums of Care

Just last month, HUD issued their 2014 Continuum of Care (CoC) Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), making available $1.83 billion nationwide to fight homelessness. CoCs have to act quickly to secure these funds, as applications are due October 30th. In addition, CoCs are required to implement new 2014 HUD Data Standards for their Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) this month.

Here's the skinny on this year's CoC NOFA:

  • The Collaborative Application (former Exhibit 1) is not required, as this is covered by the 2013 Application for fiscal years 2013 and 2014.
  • The Project Applications (new and renewal) and related attachments are required.
  • The Priority Listing and related attachments is required. As was the case for the 2013 Application, CoCs must rank their project applications and group them in Tiers 1 and 2. Find your Annual Renewal Demand and Tier 1 Allocation (ARD minus 2%) here. The full ARDs are anticipated to be funded, but HUD is requiring the Priority Listing just in case they need to make cuts. 
  • Project Applicants must be informed of their Priority Listing rank at least 10 days prior to the application due date of October 30th.
  • Don't forget that you need to make the public aware of the opportunity to submit project applications by posting a newspaper or website notice.
More information and resources on the 2013 and 2014 NOFAs can be found here.

You can find information on the 2014 HUD Data Standards here