On January 4, a Federal Register Notice was issued by HUD for the implementation of The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)/Reauthorization Act of 2022 with an overview of applicability to HUD programs. The Notice outlines initial implementation guidance and requests comments, which are due on March 6, 2023. Comments received are intended to help HUD develop regulations and guidance on VAWA.
PHADA requests that members share their comments in advance or in lieu of submitting comments to HUD by writing to Arlene Conn at: email@example.com.
On March 15, 2022, the President signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, which included the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 (VAWA 2022). VAWA 2022 reauthorizes, amends, and strengthens the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 with revised definitions for the statute. For more background on VAWA 2022, including applicability to federal programs, see PHADA’s Advocate article here. Virtually all of the amendments to VAWA took effect on October 1, 2022. The one exception relates to a HUD study and report.
The Notice states that “VAWA 2022 did not amend the majority of authorizing statutes for HUD’s programs that are covered by VAWA,” but that it does require HUD to conduct notice and comment rulemaking for some purposes. The Notice states that HUD will conduct rulemaking where necessary but that many provisions are already enforceable based on HUD and court interpretations.
Changes in Definitions
The Notice outlines where definitions to VAWA have changed but HUD notes the following: “Given HUD’s broad and inclusive definitions of these terms, HUD believes that the specific acts that VAWA 2022 made explicitly part of the VAWA ‘‘domestic violence’’ definition can be reasonably interpreted to be covered by HUD’s existing VAWA regulations.” HUD notes that its current regulations implementing VAWA cover much or all of the additional conduct specified in the VAWA 2022 definition and that its regulatory definition of domestic violence is broad and includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a list of certain relations. Furthermore, HUD’s existing definition of stalking broadly covers any course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to (1) fear for the person’s individual safety or the safety of others; or (2) suffer substantial emotional distress.
HAs, grantees, and owners and managers of covered housing programs (housing providers hereafter) are advised to apply HUD’s VAWA requirements in a manner that encompasses the ‘‘domestic violence’’ definition provided by VAWA as of October 1, 2022. HUD considers its existing regulatory definition of ‘‘domestic violence’’ to be broad enough to, in most circumstances, include the additional acts referred to in the VAWA 2022 reauthorization. These include “technological abuse, economic abuse, and a pattern of any other coercive behavior committed, enabled, or solicited to gain or maintain power and control over a victim that may or may not constitute criminal behavior.”
Requests for Comment
In this Notice, HUD specifically requests comments from housing providers (as listed above) on the following:
- Common forms of economic and technological abuse that affect survivors’ rental assistance and continued tenancy, and how HUD policy can help prevent or mitigate such violence against survivors and best practices or appropriate services to assist survivors.
- Entities’ need for training and technical assistance to support the implementation of VAWA as envisioned by VAWA 2022.
Before VAWA 2022, the housing title of VAWA did not include statutory requirements for compliance reviews, though, it is noted, all HUD programs are subject to general performance or compliance review requirements and Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) requirements. VAWA 2022 requires federal agencies to establish a compliance review process and to develop regulations in consultation with appropriate stakeholders “no later than two years after the date of enactment of VAWA 2022, March 15, 2024.” (VAWA 2022 was signed into law by President Biden on March 15, 2022.) VAWA 2022 also requires that these implementing regulations define standards of compliance under HUD-covered programs, including detailed reporting requirements on emergency transfers and standards for corrective action plans where compliance standards have not been met. “To the extent possible, HUD will identify existing compliance review procedures that already allow for such reviews, including those currently administered by FHEO.”
Prohibiting Retaliation Against Victims
VAWA 2022 provides that no housing provider “shall discriminate against any person because that person has opposed any act or practice made unlawful by the housing title of VAWA, or because that person testified, assisted, or participated in any related matter.” Furthermore, no housing provider shall “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 the housing title of VAWA.” VAWA 2022 includes provisions for HUD and the Attorney General to implement and enforce this chapter; however, the Notice states that “HUD does not consider rulemaking to be necessary to enable Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity’s enforcement of the new requirements as of October 1, 2022, although HUD may conduct rulemaking to further implement this provision.” This consideration extends to complaint filing, investigation, and conciliation.
The Notice states that housing providers “should ensure that policies and practices include the statutory non-retaliation requirement and prohibition on coercion. HUD may further implement this provision through rulemaking if the specific needs of enforcement of VAWA requires additional processes or clarity. HUD will also implement this provision for grantees of covered housing programs as well as PHAs, owners, and managers of housing assisted under VAWA 2022 covered housing programs through rulemaking to include program enforcement mechanisms.”
The Right to Report Crime and Emergencies
VAWA 2022 adds a new section that protects the right to report crime and emergencies from one’s home and “prohibits actual or threatened penalties to protected persons based on their requests for assistance or based on criminal activity of which they are a victim or otherwise not at fault under the laws or policies adopted or enforced by covered governmental entities.” This includes any municipal, county, or State government that receives funding under section 106 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. “HUD will issue guidance and help answer questions from grantees and federal financial assistance recipients on this process. HUD anticipates issuing implementing regulations, to include any costs of conforming to the requirements that may be allowable under HUD programs affected by this provision, including the CDBG program.”
PHADA encourages all HAs to review their VAWA policies to incorporate changes under VAWA 2022 and to respond to this Federal Register Notice with any related insights and concerns.