USDA Issues VAWA-Compliant Model Emergency Transfer Plan
When President Obama signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in March 2013, the number of HUD programs subject to the law’s protections was expanded beyond HUD’s public housing and Section 8 tenant-based and project-based programs. Specifically, the reauthorization of VAWA housing protections have been extended to nine federal programs that were not covered in the past: Section 8, Section 202, Section 811, BMIR, Section 236, Rural Development housing, Title IV McKinney-Vento (homeless housing), Low Income Housing Tax Credit, Title VIII/Subtitle D (Cranston-Gonzalez Act housing), and Sections 6 and 8 U.S. Housing Act of 1937 housing.
At the time, HUD didn’t provide updated program guidance on how to implement VAWA, or any documents needed, for any individual HUD program covered by the new law. And HUD has still not developed specific guidance. But perhaps as a sign of guidance to come, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Service (RD) recently issued Administrative Notice (AN) No. 4747 (1944-N), titled “Implementation of 42 U.S.C. 14043-e 11 of the Violence Against Women (VAWA) Reauthorization Act in Rural Development’s Multi-Family Housing Programs.”
Emergency transfer assistance. Under VAWA 2013, HUD is required to adopt a model emergency transfer plan for use by public housing agencies (PHAs), owners, managers, or other providers participating in covered programs. The plan must allow tenants who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking to transfer to another available unit under a covered housing program if they have a reasonable fear of imminent harm from further violence.
Victims of sexual assault, in addition to being able to qualify based on a reasonable belief of imminent harm, must also be allowed to transfer to another available unit if the sexual assault occurred within the past 90 days on the premises.
The RD notice instructed RD staff to be prepared to implement its Model Emergency Transfer Plan if requested by tenants who are imminently in danger of domestic violence. The notice also recommends that owners and managers update their tenant selection plans and occupancy rules to incorporate VAWA’s tenant rights and protections. If properties also receive Section 8 assistance, owners and managers should comply with HUD VAWA requirements.
Attachment B of the notice details the RD’s Model Emergency Transfer Plan:
Tenants who are actual or imminent victims of domestic violence shall be permitted by the owner or manager to transfer to another available and safe dwelling unit assisted under the MFH program covered by this AN when a transfer is requested by a tenant, and (1) the tenant reasonably believes that he or she is threatened with imminent harm from further violence if he or she remains within the same dwelling; and (2) in the case of a tenant who is a victim of sexual assault, the sexual assault occurred on the premises during the 90-day period preceding the request for transfer.
Tenants requesting an emergency transfer under the VAWA Act may receive benefits under 49 U.S.C. part 24, “Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act,” by requesting a Letter of Priority Entitlement from the Agency, as Rural Development considers this to be a situation beyond the tenant’s control under 7 CFR 3560.159(c).
7 CFR 3560.159(c) states, “If occupancy is terminated due to conditions which are beyond the control of the tenant, such as a condition related to required repair or rehabilitation of the building, or a natural disaster, the tenants who are affected by such a circumstance are entitled to benefits under the Uniform Relocation Act and may request a Letter of Priority Entitlement (LOPE) from the Agency. If tenants need additional time to secure replacement housing, the Agency may, at the tenant’s request, extend the LOPE entitlement period.”
Reasonable confidentiality measures must be incorporated by owners and managers so that location of the new dwelling is not disclosed to the person that commits an actual or imminent act of violence.