Part 1 - Crucial VAWA Questions Answered by HUD

HUD's recent explanation of its VAWA regulations provides guidance for HUD programs and a safe harbor for tax credit properties. This series discusses several of the key questions answered by the HUD regulation.

On November 16, 2016 HUD published it's final Rule for HUD properties covered by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as reauthorized in 2013. This also includes the HOME multi-family housing rental program. In January of 2017, via an Administrative Notice, Rural Development (RD) essentially adopted the HUD regulations with a few minor adjustments to fit RD program rules. The only program covered by VAWA 2013 for which guidance has not been issued is the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. Because of technical differences in the role of the IRS with respect to the tax credit as compared to HUD and RD for their housing programs, it is unclear if any guidance will be forthcoming from the IRS. In the meantime, it appears that HUD's regulation and the explanation that HUD published in response to many comments that HUD has received provide a fairly complete framework for tax credit owner/agents to carry out VAWA for their properties. Here we will discuss a series of questions that many owner/agents of affordable housing have regarding VAWA.

NOTE: The regulation can be found HERE and is referenced in these articles starting with VAWA 2016 Fed.Reg."and then by page numbers on the PDF from the Federal Register found at the above link. The Rural Development follow-up can be found HERE.

Question 1: Why does the HUD guidance and new forms consistently mention all four covered forms of violence (domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking) every time it mentions VAWA violence?

Answer: Many victims of a specific sort of violence may not realize that the violence they have experienced is covered under VAWA. For instance, victims of stalking may not think of themselves when they hear the term "domestic violence." As an education measure and to ensure that all victims and owner/agents are aware of VAWA rights, HUD consistently lists all four forms of VAWA-covered violence in their guidance and forms. (VAWA 2016 Fed.Reg. 80735) NOTE: this author wholeheartedly agrees with listing the VAWA violence separately when dealing with the general public. For purposes of brevity in addressing informed owner/agents, however, we will refer to "VAWA violence" in these articles instead of listing the four violence types individually each time.

Question 2: The Housing Trust Fund (HTF) is not listed in the VAWA statute as covered by VAWA. Does VAWA apply to the HTF?

Answer: Yes. This is important, as many HTF properties will be coming online soon. Although the statute does not specifically require that VAWA be applied to properties funded with the HTF, HUD has exercised its regulatory authority to apply their VAWA Rule to the HTF. (VAWA 2016 Fed.Reg. 80732)

Question 3: Are emergency shelters subsidized by HUD covered under VAWA?

Answer: The core VAWA nondiscrimination protections apply to emergency shelters subsidized by HUD, and individuals are not to be denied shelter because they are victims of VAWA violence. In the final rule, HUD added language to make the VAWA core protections apply to emergency shelters. However, other VAWA protections apply to rental housing, which generally involves a tenant, a landlord and a lease specifying the occupancy rights and obligations of the tenant. These do not apply to shelters. (Fed.Reg. 80734)

Next time: "Can an owner/agent require that victims produce third-party documentation of their status as victims to prove that they qualify for VAWA protections if the owner/agent suspects fraud?" ...and more!

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