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News | VAWA 2022 is Here! Why VAWA Violations May Now Be as Serious as Fair Housing Discrimination.

fair housing news vawa Mar 11, 2022

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization of 2022 was signed into law on March 11, 2022. It was part of the omnibus fiscal year 2022 appropriations bill. 

Although the basic provisions of VAWA do not expire, authorization for funding for VAWA programs had expired in 2018. The House passed its version of the new VAWA reauthorization in early 2021, but the Senate finally acted by including its version in the omnibus package. As in the past, VAWA had fairly strong bipartisan support.

As it has since 2004, VAWA 2022 includes provisions that affect housing providers. In 2004, HUD Section 8 and Public Housing programs were involved. With the 2013 reauthorization, more HUD programs (including HOME Funds), Rural Development, and LIHTC programs were covered. This latest authorization notably adds the national HTF program.  

Summary of New VAWA Housing Provisions

The new VAWA adds some requirements and it would also appear to provide significant new penalties...Fair Housing-level penalties!

VAWA 2022:

  • Reauthorizes funding for fiscal years 2023 -2027 for transitional housing grants for victims of VAWA-covered violence and for collaborative grants to increase the long-term stability of victims who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless and grants to combat violence against women in public and assisted housing.
  • Expands the covered housing program to include more housing and homelessness programs. Some of the major programs newly covered include the Section 202 (1959–1974) Direct Loan, Rural Development 542 Voucher, and National Housing Trust Fund programs. Note: in the past, HUD had used its regulatory authority to apply VAWA protections to the National HTF, which enforces this status in the statute. 
  • To ensure that future programs are covered, the law now covers “any other Federal housing programs providing affordable housing to low- and moderate-income persons by means of restricted rents or rental assistance as identified by the appropriate agency.” Of the major affordable housing programs, this would seem to only exclude the tax-exempt bond program, which does not control rents or provide rental assistance. 
  • Requires HUD's Secretary to conduct a study assessing the availability and accessibility of housing and services for individuals experiencing homelessness or housing instability who are survivors of trafficking or at risk of being trafficked.
  • Requires HUD's Secretary to establish a Gender-based Violence Prevention Office with a Violence Against Women Act Director.
  • Require each federal agency carrying out covered housing to regulate and assess compliance with VAWA provisions. 
  • Prohibits retaliation against persons when they exercise their rights or participate in processes related to VAWA housing protections.
  • Prohibits coercion of persons when they exercise their rights or participate in processes related to VAWA housing protections.
  • Protects the right to report crime from one’s home.

These last three provisions will have the greatest impact on daily housing policy. Below directly quotes the new statute.

Nonretaliation Provisions. VAWA 2022 requires that "No public housing agency or owner or manager of housing assisted under a covered housing program shall discriminate against any person because that person has opposed any act or practice made unlawful by [VAWA]  or because that person testified, assisted, or participated in any matter related to [VAWA]." 
Noncoercion Provisions. "No public housing agency or owner or manager of housing assisted under a covered housing program shall coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with, or retaliate against, any person in the exercise or enjoyment of, on account of the person having exercised or enjoyed, or on account of the person having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of, any rights or protections under [VAWA], including—

  1. intimidating or threatening any person because that person is assisting or encouraging a person entitled to claim the rights or protections under [VAWA].
  2. retaliating against any person because that person has participated in any investigation or action to enforce [VAWA]."

Protection to Report Crimes from Home. "Landlords, homeowners, tenants, residents, occupants, and guests of, and applicants for, housing:

  1. Shall have the right to seek law enforcement or emergency assistance on their own behalf or on behalf of another person in need of assistance; and
  2. Shall not be penalized based on their requests for assistance or based on criminal activity of which they are a victim or otherwise not at fault under statutes, ordinances, regulations, or policies adopted or enforced by covered governmental entities.

Prohibited penalties include:

  1. Actual or threatened assessment of monetary or criminal penalties, fines, or fees.
  2. Actual or threatened eviction.
  3. Actual or threatened refusal to rent or renew tenancy.
  4. Actual or threatened refusal to issue occupancy permit or landlord permit.
  5. Actual or threatened closure of the property, or designation of the property as a nuisance or a similarly negative designation."

Important Enforcement Provision! "The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and the Attorney General shall implement and enforce [VAWA] consistent with, and in a manner that provides, the same rights and remedies as those provided for in title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968."

This would appear to make VAWA violations at covered housing essentially equivalent to Fair Housing violations. HUD has pursued VAWA violations as Fair Housing violations under the principle of disparate impact, but this would seem to provide additional enforceability, and give VAWA more "teeth." Owner/agents will want to stay on the right side of a VAWA case for additional reasons than it is the right thing to do!

Check back often, we have several VAWA 2022 Blog posts planned in the coming months. Click the VAWA category of this Blog for further updates.

All the 2022 changes to VAWA can be downloaded by clicking the image below. Housing provisions are found in Title VI—Safe Homes for Victims. This section starts on page 116 of this copy and comprises Sections 601-606.

Check out HERE! The above topic is just one of many to be discussed at this year's Compliance Summit Events.

There is a very good chance that the topic of this post is covered in an online on-demand course at Costello University.


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