Progress Reflected in the 2013 PIT Sets Stage for NOFA : What Communities Need to Understand about the Application Process for the CoC Program Competition

On Friday, November 22, 2013, HUD released the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for the Continuum of Care Program Competition, launching the annual competition for $1.7 billion in Federal funding for the Continuum of Care (CoC) Program. HUD has also made some important changes in this year’s competition. HUD has made these changes in an effort to sustain and accelerate the progress our nation has made in ending homelessness, as reflected in last week’s release of the 2013 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress. The 2013 Point-in-Time count data reflects an overall downward trend in homelessness and shows that with strategic investment in proven strategies, we can achieve the vision set forth in Opening Doors, that everyone should have a safe and stable place to call home.

The FY 2013-FY 2014 CoC Program Competition NOFA encourages communities to further adopt and implement the proven programs and practices that will increase this downward trend.

Looking at the 2013 PIT Results in Context

The 2013 Point-in-Time (PIT) count shows a steady and significant decrease in national rates of homelessness since the launch Opening Doors. This trend is evidence that, in partnership with communities across the country, the Obama Administration has significantly impacted the trajectory on homelessness.  The progress is particularly remarkable given the economic downturn our country faced and the reality of an economy that has slowly, but steadily been improving.

Communities have made progress in difficult times by doing more of what works, through policy changes, shifting resources, and leveraging new funding opportunities.

For example, Veteran homelessness has decreased by 24 percent since 2010.  Bipartisan congressional support for increased targeted investments in programs like HUD-VASH and SSVF have been critical.  Communities are taking proven practices like Housing First to scale in the way they implement these programs. The results are stark: between January, 2012 and January, 2013 there was a 16 percent reduction in the number of Veterans living on the streets. This is the deepest reduction in unsheltered Veteran homelessness our nation has experienced to date.

The number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness has decreased by 16 percent since 2010, due to the expansion of permanent supportive housing serving this population. Permanent supportive housing is a proven and cost-effective solution that helps people gain housing stability and become healthier. In addition, communities achieve lower costs by decreasing the need for crisis services like emergency rooms and jails.

We need bi-partisan congressional support to increase funds for HUD’s homeless programs so that communities can create enough permanent supportive housing to end the costly tragedy of chronic homelessness.

The 2013 point-in-time count shows a decrease in national rates of homelessness among families of 8 percent since 2010.

The downward trend in homelessness overall is evidence that the collaborative effort of Federal Agencies with State and local governments and private and non-profit partners is creating meaningful results for people experiencing homelessness. We have much more work to do, and we will only continue on a path to end the crisis of homelessness if we are willing to invest in solutions.

At the same time, the current Federal budget situation presents significant challenges. Due to flat funding from Congress and sequestration, HUD’s FY 2013 funds for the CoC program have been cut by five percent. The Obama Administration is fighting hard to increase funding for programs that serve people experiencing homelessness. In the meantime, it is more important than ever that we use the resources we have to create the biggest impact on homelessness. Communities that demonstrate that every dollar will be spent in the most strategic way possible will be in the best position to make the case for needed resources. This year’s NOFA application, more than ever, requires communities to show this strategic investment.  

What communities should be thinking about in approaching the FY 2013-FY 2014 CoC Program Competition

This year’s competition is for a smaller amount of funding than has been available in years past, with little hope for restoration of funds due to continuing budget cuts. Although the partial government shut-down delayed the NOFA release, HUD is allowing communities a longer response time to support these critical planning decisions.

USICH will provide more information in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we wanted to highlight three aspects of in this year’s competition that are of particular importance: timing, policy priorities, and tiering and project selection.

1.Timing

For the first time, HUD is asking CoCs to submit a combined “Continuum of Care Application”—the portion of the application that reflects community-wide performance and planning—for the FY2013 and FY2014 competitions. This streamlines the application process for FY2014, reduces some of the time and paperwork burden for CoCs, and enables HUD to get FY2014 funds in the hands of communities and programs on faster timetable.

The CoC Application to be submitted in FY2013 should reflect a CoC’s planning and performance for both FY2013 and FY2014. The score CoCs receive in the FY 2013 application will apply to the FY2014 funding awards.  Consequently, the FY2013 application is where CoCs need to demonstrate that they are putting in place the key policies and practices that are essential to ending homelessness.

For the current NOFA, CoCs will have to submit a CoC application, along with project applications and priority lists for FY2013 funds.  When HUD releases the FY2014 NOFA, communities will need to submit project applications and priority lists for FY2014 funds, but not a CoC Application. At this time, the amount of funds in the FY2014 is not known.

The FY 2013/FY 2014 CoC Program Competition opened on November 22, 2013 and will close on February 3, 2014.  HUD then anticipates opening the FY2014 competition for project applications much earlier in the year, making it possible to announce 2014 funds by around the end of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2014. 

2. Policy Priorities

This year’s NOFA places even stronger emphasis on system-wide implementation of the policies and practices that are critical to ending homelessness. HUD and USICH have provided specific communication to the field in advance of the NOFA to support local understanding of key policy priorities.

It is critical that CoCs carefully review the policy priorities and scoring criteria in the FY 2013-FY 2014 CoC Program Competition NOFA, as there are significant changes aimed at encouraging CoCs to adopt and implement specific policy priorities and best practice models. Some of the highlights of the scoring criteria in the FY 2013-FY 2014 CoC Program Competition NOFA include:

Ensuring that CoCs strategically allocate resources to evidence-backed and high-performing programs
Ending chronic homelessness through new and reallocated permanent supportive housing projects that serve people experiencing chronic homelessness, and which adopt a Housing First approach
Ending family homelessness through new reallocated Rapid Re-housing projects for families experiencing homelessness
Reallocating or reducing Transitional Housing Grants and Supportive Services Only Grants
Prioritizing households most in need
Maximizing the use of funding from mainstream services
Serving Veterans and youth who are experiencing homelessness   

3. Tiering, and Project Selection Priorities in Light of Funding Decreases

Due to flat funding levels and budget cuts under sequestration, there is insufficient FY 2013 funding available for all existing renewal projects. Therefore, in FY 2013 CoCs will once again rank projects into two funding tiers. The amount available in Tier 1 represents a CoC’s Annual Renewal Demand (or the total sum of all renewal projects eligible for renewal in FY 2013) minus a five percent cut. Projects ranked in Tier 1 are considered relatively safe, while projects in Tier 2 are at risk.

CoCs that receive higher scores on the FY 2013/FY 2014 CoC Application will be in the strongest position for having some of their Tier 2 projects funded in the order of priority outlined under the selection criteria in the NOFA.  It is important to understand that while in FY 2012, CoCs were asked to plan for cuts, HUD was able to reduce the level of cuts through carryover and recaptured funds; HUD does not anticipate that this will happen in FY 2013.

Given these unfortunate cuts, HUD is asking communities to ensure that CoC resources are used in the most strategic way possible. This mean prioritizing funding for programs and infrastructure that are essential to helping people experiencing homelessness obtain permanent housing as quickly as possible and with appropriate levels of services to support housing stability. One way to approach this if for communities to leverage mainstream resources—like Housing Choice Vouchers, Medicaid, TANF, and more—to supplement CoC funds.

HUD will select projects based on project type using the selection priorities outlined in the FY 2013-FY 2014 CoC Program Competition NOFA. HUD will follow this order to select projects for funding in both Tier 1 and Tier 2.  HUD will select lower ranked projects from the CoC Priority Listing above projects ranked higher by the CoC, consistent with these selection priorities. Above all other types of projects in each tier, HUD will prioritize the renewal permanent housing projects and new reallocated permanent housing, namely permanent supportive housing and Rapid Re-housing. This means that should HUD be able to fund any projects within Tier 2, it will first fund all renewal and reallocated permanent housing by CoC score before moving to the next project type in the selection criteria.

In the coming weeks, USICH will be holding a webinar to advise CoCs on how they can be as strategic as possible in responding to the FY2013-FY 2014 CoC Program Competition. In addition, USICH will be releasing a tool that will help CoCs identify mainstream funding and programs that can serve as alternatives for CoC-funded services, and assess the strategic value of CoC-funded services.

CoCs and project applicants can also find additional resources related to the FY 2013-FY 2014 CoC Program Competition on HUD’s OneCPD Resource Exchange FY 2013 Continuum of Care (CoC) Program NOFA: CoC Program Competition page.

CoCs that submit applications that demonstrate alignment with these policy priorities will receive higher scores and will therefore have a greater likelihood of having a portion of their Tier 2 projects awarded in FY 2013 and FY 2014 in the order of priority established in the NOFA at Section VII.B.b.