HUD Announces VAWA Final Rule
HUD recently published in the Federal Register the final rule implementing housing provisions under the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) as it applies to HUD programs. The rule codifies VAWA core protections across covered HUD programs to ensure individuals are not denied assistance, evicted, or have their assistance terminated because of their status as victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, or for being affiliated with a victim.
The 2013 VAWA legislation and resulting final rule expands the number of HUD programs subject to VAWA protections. Previously, only residents of public housing and Section 8 tenant-based and project-based programs were covered by VAWA legislation as passed by Congress in 2005. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit and USDA Rural Housing properties are also subject to VAWA requirements per the 2013 reauthorization. However, the Treasury Department and the Department of Agriculture haven’t yet issued regulations to implement VAWA protections under those programs.
Among other things, the rule includes:
Continuation of the core protections. The rule codifies the core protection across HUD’s covered programs to ensure that survivors are not denied assistance as an applicant, or evicted or have assistance terminated due to having been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or for being affiliated with a victim.
Emergency transfers. One of the key elements of VAWA’s housing protections are emergency transfers that allow survivors to move to another safe and available unit if they fear for their life and safety. As required by VAWA, HUD adopted a model emergency transfer plan, which requires housing providers to:
- Allow for a resident to move immediately if there’s another safe and available unit that doesn’t require the survivor to undergo an application process as a new tenant;
- Explain the efforts they’ll take when there isn’t a safe and available unit available for an emergency transfer and encourages housing provides to partner with victim services and advocates and other housing providers to assist a survivor; and
- Document requests for emergency transfers, including the outcome of the request, and to report annually to HUD.
Protections against the adverse effects of abuse. Domestic violence can often have negative economic and criminal consequences on a survivor. The perpetrator may take out credit cards in a survivor’s name, ruining her credit history, or causing damage to her property, causing eviction and poor rental history. The perpetrator may force a survivor to participate in criminal activity, or a survivor may be arrested as part of policies that require arresting of both parties in a domestic disturbance. The final rule ensures that housing providers don’t deny tenancy or occupancy rights based solely on these adverse factors that are a direct result of being a survivor.
Low-barrier certification process. The final rule makes it clear that under most circumstances, a survivor need only to self-certify in order to exercise her rights under VAWA, ensuring third-party documentation doesn’t cause a barrier preventing a survivor from expressing her rights and receiving the protections needed to keep herself safe.
In an address to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Arizona, HUD Secretary Julián Castro emphasized the importance of the rule in building a broad set of housing protections into all of HUD’s key programs. “Nobody should have to choose between an unsafe home and no home at all,” Castro said. “Today we take a necessary step toward ensuring domestic violence survivors are protected from being twice victimized when it comes to finding and keeping a home they can feel safe in.”