HUD Expands Housing Protections for Survivors of Violence
HUD recently finalized a new rule to protect the housing of survivors of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. On March 7, 2013, President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013) into law. The law significantly expanded the housing protections to survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, across HUD’s core housing and homelessness programs. HUD quickly modified its administrative practices to incorporate the core protections, but the more expansive protections required a change in regulation. The recently announced final rule satisfies this requirement.
In an address to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Chandler, Ariz., 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,” said Secretary Castro. “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.”
HUD’s rule includes:
Continuation of the core protections. 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 due to having been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and 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. VAWA required HUD to adopt a model emergency transfer plan for housing providers and to explain how housing providers must address their tenants’ requests for emergency transfers. HUD’s model emergency transfer plan:
- Allows a survivor to self-certify her need for an emergency transfer, ensuring documentation is not a barrier to protecting her immediate safety;
- Allows the survivor to determine what is a safe unit for purposes of the transfer, ensuring that the survivor has control over her own safety planning;
- 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, ensuring quicker access to safe housing;
- Requires housing providers to explain the efforts they will take when there is not 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
- Requires housing providers to 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 the survivor’s 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 covered 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 in a survivor expressing her rights and receiving the protections needed to keep herself safe.