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Violence Against Women Act Protections Extended to HUD Program Housing
October 28, 2010
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For those of you out there who own and/or operate affordable housing subsidized by HUD, you should take note that the protections extended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) have been permanently extended to HUD Section 8 properties.  The final rules published yesterday in the Federal Register now make the prior 2008 interim rules permanent with some alterations and clarifications.  If you did not know that VAWA protections extended to your HUD tenants, take note.   VAWA, when enacted in 1994, was supposed to be self-implementing; however, regulations were needed to explain how these self-implementing provisions would be implemented and incorporated under existing federal regulations. 

Under VAWA and now portions of the Code of Federal Regulations applicable to certain HUD programs (24 CFR Parts 5, 91 et. al.), incidents or threats of abuse will not be construed as violations of a lease for a HUD subsidized unit, or considered other "good cause" for termination of assistance, tenancy, or occupancy rights despite the disruption the abuse becomes to other tenants.  According to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, "[e]victions can [now] only take place after the housing or subsidy providers have taken actions that will reduce or eliminate the threat to the victim, including, transferring the abuse victim to a different home; barring the abuser from the property; contacting law enforcement to increase police presence or develop other plans to keep the property safe; or seeking other legal remedies to prevent the abuser from acting on a threat."

Also, VAWA provides an exception to the prohibition against a family moving under the portability provisions that would normally be a violation of a HUD lease, allowing a family to recieve a voucher and move in violation of the lease for safety reasons without having to worry about losing their accessibility to subsidized housing.  Nor can a management company, agent or owner use the fact that family members who are or were victims of domestic violence as a factor to deny them a housing opportunity under one of HUD's programs.

Like most federal regulations, they could be more user friendly for laymen, but I expect a helpful manual will be forthcoming if not already available.