On Jan. 6, HUD published a notice in the Federal Register detailing several changes that were made in the 2022 revision to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The changes were made in several sections. Many of the changes became effective on Oct. 1, 2022. The Department is seeking comment on the proposed changes by March 6, 2022.
Changes to VAWA Definitions
The revision amends the definition of “domestic violence” to include “any felony or misdemeanor crimes committed under the family or domestic violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant funding.” This definition includes “in the case of victim services, the use or attempted use of physical abuse or sexual abuse, or a pattern of any other coercive behavior committed, enabled, or solicited to gain or maintain power and control over a victim, including verbal, psychological, economic, or technological abuse that may or may not constitute criminal behavior” by certain individuals including current or former spouses, current or former co-inhabitants, people sharing a child, or people who commit acts against people protected from acts by family or domestic violence laws of a jurisdiction.
The definitional change occurred on Oct. 1, 2022. While the change is only for grants authorized under VAWA, HUD notes that the current definition of domestic violence covers all of the additional conduct specified in VAWA 2022, and HUD interprets the existing regulatory definitions of “domestic violence” and “stalking” to encompass all of the revised conduct.
Additional Covered Housing Programs
The revision expands the scope of covered programs to include the Section 202 Direct Loan Program, the Housing Trust Fund, and any other federal housing programs. For the Housing Trust Fund, the Department already considers it a covered program through its regulatory authority. The Department will issue new regulations to cover all the additional programs.
The revision requires Federal agencies to establish a process to review compliance with VAWA. Federal agencies are required to incorporate these review processes into their existing compliance reviews where possible. Six items are to be examined:
- Compliance with requirements prohibiting the denial of assistance, tenancy, or occupancy rights on the basis of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
- Compliance with confidentiality provisions;
- Compliance with notification requirements;
- Compliance with the provisions for accepting VAWA documentation;
- Compliance with emergency transfer requirements; and
- Compliance with the prohibition on retaliation.
Compliance review procedures must be established by regulation by March 15, 2024. Additionally, there will be requirements on reporting of emergency transfers, and HUD will have to establish standards for corrective action plans where compliance standards have not been met.
Prohibiting Retaliation Against Victims
The revision states that PHAs and housing owners or managers under covered housing programs shall not discriminate against any person that has opposed any act made unlawful by VAWA or because the person testified, assisted, or participated in any related matter. In addition, those entities may not “coerce, intimidate, threaten, interfere with, or retaliate against any person who exercises or assists or encourages a person to exercise any rights or protections” under VAWA. These changes took effect on Oct. 1, 2022. Rulemaking is not necessary for the enforcement of this requirement, but HUD may conduct rulemaking to implement this provision. HUD will enforce this provision using the existing Fair Housing Act complaint process.
Right to Report Crime and Emergencies
The revision protects the right to report crime and emergencies from a person’s home. The new revision allows for “landlords, homeowners, tenants, residents, occupants, and guests of, and applicants for, housing” to have the right to seek law enforcement or emergency assistance for themselves or another person in need. Actual or threatened penalties to protected persons for their assistance requests are prohibited. Covered governmental entities must report on their laws or policies that impose penalties on protected persons for law enforcement or emergency assistance based on criminal activity at a property. The governmental entities must certify compliance with these provisions within 180 days of providing their report. These changes took effect on Oct. 1, 2022. HUD will issue implementing regulations and guidance, although in 2016 HUD already issued guidance on apply the Fair Housing Act to local nuisance law. The current Fair Housing complaint process will be used for enforcement of these provisions.
Changes to McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act Definition of Homelessness
The revision amends the definition of homeless to include any individual or family who
- is experiencing trauma or a lack of safety related to, or fleeing or attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous, traumatic, or life-threatening conditions related to the violence against the individual or a family member in the individual’s or family’s current housing situation, including where the health and safety of children are jeopardized;
- has no other safe residence; and
- lacks the resources to obtain other safe permanent housing.
Rulemaking will be necessary for the Emergency Solutions Grants recipients and subrecipients and the Continuums of Care recipients and subrecipients. Since this provision went into effect on Oct. 1, 2022, those programs may implement the new definition prior to rulemaking.
Gender-Based Violence Prevention Office and VAWA Director
There are no implementation requirements for this section. The Department has begun this process.
Continuum of Care Program Eligible Activities
The revision amends the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to allow for facilitating and coordinating activities to ensure compliance with the emergency transfer plan and monitoring the compliance with the confidentiality protections for the confidentiality requirement. The change took effect on Oct. 1, 2022, but the Department will need to make conforming changes to the Continuum of Care regulations.
VAWA Training and Technical Assistance
The Department will be providing technical assistance on the implementation of these new revisions and seeks information on the requirements of entities for this technical assistance.
Study and Report on Housing and Service Needs of Survivors of Trafficking and Individuals at Risk for Trafficking
The Department is required to “study the availability and accessibility of housing and services for survivors of trafficking or those at risk of being trafficked, who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability.” Not later than Sept. 15, 2023, HUD must submit a report on the study to Sept. 15, 2023. The Department began work on the study in in Spring 2022.
The full notice can be found here.