HUD Finalizes Rule to Expand Housing Protections for Survivors of Violence

On October 24, HUD announced the impending publication of a final rule that will expand the housing protections for victims of  domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking (hereinafter known as “victim”) regardless of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age. The final rule will fully codify the provisions of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013) into HUD’s regulations.

At its core, VAWA 2013 prohibits housing providers from denying or terminating housing assistance on the basis that an applicant or tenant is a victim. HUD’s final rule expands the universe of HUD rental assistance programs subject to the VAWA 2013 statute beyond Public Housing and Section 8 programs to also include:

  • Housing Trust Fund (HTF) – a program originally not listed under VAWA 2013;
  • HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program;
  • Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program;
  • HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless programs;
  • Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities;
  • Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly;
  • Section 221(d)(3) Below Market Interest Rate (BMIR) Program
  • Section 236 Rental Program

These programs, along with properties assisted through the USDA Rural Housing programs and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, are collectively referred to as “covered housing programs.”

Overall, HUD’s final rule:

  • Codifies the core protections under VAWA 2013 across HUD’s covered programs by ensuring survivors are not denied assistance as an applicant, or evicted or have assistance terminated due to the individual’s victim status, or for being affiliated with a victim.
  • Provides a model emergency transfer plan for housing providers and explains how housing providers must address their tenants’ requests for emergency transfers.
  • Offers protections against the adverse effects of abuse that can often have negative economic and criminal consequences on a survivor. For example, a perpetrator may take out credit cards in a survivor’s name, ruining their credit history. Covered housing providers may  not deny tenancy or occupancy rights based solely on adverse factors that are a direct result of being a survivor.
  • Makes clear that under most circumstances, a survivor need only to self-certify in order to exercise their rights under VAWA, there by “ensuring third party documentation does not cause a barrier in a survivor expressing their rights and receiving the protections needed to keep themselves safe.”

HUD’s final rule is currently pending publication in the Federal Register. Once published, the rule’s regulations will become effective after 30 days.

An in-depth analysis of the final rule can be found in the October 30, 2016 edition of the NAHRO Monitor (members only).

 

HUD Releases Enhanced Voucher Proposed Rule

On October 26, HUD will publish a proposed rule titled “Tenant-based Assistance: Enhanced Voucher” in the Federal Register. The rule codifies HUD’s existing policy regarding enhanced vouchers, specifically regarding the eligibility criteria for enhanced vouchers, rental payment standards and subsidy standards applicable to enhanced vouchers, the right of enhanced voucher holders to remain in their units, procedures for addressing over-housed families, and the calculation of the enhanced voucher housing assistance payment. Comments are due December 27, 2016.

Currently, HUD’s enhanced voucher policy is based on statutory requirements, and summarized in guidance provided in PIH notices. These notices include: PIH 2001-41 on Enhanced and Regular Housing Choice Vouchers for Housing Conversion Actions; PIH 2010-18 on PHA Determinations of Rent Reasonableness in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program —Comparable Unassisted Units; PIH 2011-46 on Determination of Rent Reasonableness in the Housing Choice Voucher Program; and PIH 2016-02 on Enhanced Voucher Requirements for Over-housed Families. The proposed rule codifies HUD’s existing policy.

HUD is specifically asking for comments on three specific issues. HUD is asking for comments on how to define the vacancy rate for a “low-vacancy” area. HUD asks commenters to consider: whether the low-vacancy area should be based on a constant vacancy percentage applied universally, or whether it should vary with differing factors, such as area population growth, demand for rental, or any other relevant factors; and whether the low-vacancy area definition should be unique to this enhanced voucher program, or should be constant across all HUD programs that use the concept of a low-vacancy area. HUD also requests comments on whether it is appropriate to allow families to be rescreened and potentially denied admission to the program so long as the screening is consistent with the PHA policy for regular admission. Lastly, HUD seeks comments on whether language in the proposed rule relating to a tenants right to remain should  be removed, qualified or modified in some way, or made final. Language in the proposed rule solely states that an owner may not terminate tenancy except as provided in existing regulations.