On November 16, 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s final rule regarding the implementation of housing protections authorized in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) was published in the Federal Register. This final rule is a critical step in protecting housing of survivors of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
The rule becomes effective on December 16, 2016. Please note that covered housing providers will have 180 days from the effective date to develop emergency transfer plans. Emergency transfer provisions will become effective June 14, 2017.
HUD Secretary Julían Castro stated that “Nobody should have to choose between an unsafe home and no home at all. 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.”
Some of the critical components of the final rule include:
- Extension of the core protections to Continuum of Care (CoC), Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) and Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) – The rule codifies the core protection across HUD’s covered programs ensuring survivors are not denied assistance as an applicant, or evicted or have assistance terminated as a tenant, because the applicant or tenant is or has been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
- Emergency transfers – One of the key elements of VAWA’s housing protections is the emergency transfer plan which allows for survivors to move to another safe and available unit if they fear for their life and safety. The final rule includes a model emergency transfer plan, which was required in VAWA 2013, and an emergency transfer request form.
- Protections against denials, terminations, and evictions that directly result from being a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking – Survivors often face denial, termination, or eviction from housing for a reason that seems unrelated to being a survivor (such as poor rental history or poor credit), but is actually a direct result of being a survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. For example, as part of an act of domestic violence an abuser may cause damage to the survivor’s apartment, which in turn may cause the survivor to be evicted and have a poor rental history. Or stalking may involve taking out credit cards in a person’s name and misusing them to cause the person emotional distress, and the misuse of those cards may cause the person to have poor credit. To protect survivors in situations like these, the final rule prohibits any denial, termination, or eviction that is “a direct result of the fact that the applicant or tenant is or has been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, if the applicant or tenant otherwise qualifies for admission, assistance, participation, or occupancy.”
- Low-barrier certification process – The final rule makes it clear that under most circumstances, a survivor need only to self-certify in order to document the domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, ensuring third party documentation does not cause a barrier in a survivor expressing their rights and receiving the protections needed to keep themselves safe. The rule includes a certification form that may be used by covered housing providers.
HUD will be publishing additional guidance in the coming months. In the meantime, if you have a question, please submit it to the HUD Exchange Ask A Question (AAQ) portal.