March 08, 2013

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA protects both child and adult victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The legislation, S.47, extends the law’s protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered men and women and to non-native perpetrators of violence on Native American reservations.

Title VI of the Act, Safe Homes for Victims of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking, amends VAWA with respect to the housing rights of victims and expands the Act’s applicability to affordable housing programs to include the Housing Credit. Other programs covered by the Act are Section 202, Section 811, HOPWA, HOME, Section 221(d) mortgage insurance programs, Section 8 rental assistance, Section 236, and a number of rural housing assistance programs authorized by the Housing Act of 1949.

Key elements of Title VI include:

• Making it illegal to deny or terminate housing assistance to a victim from federally subsidized housing on the basis of being a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

• Permitting public housing agencies (PHAs) and assisted housing owners and managers to bifurcate leases of tenants residing in federally subsidized housing to evict a tenant who engages in domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking without penalizing a victim of such criminal activity.

• Prohibiting the denial of assistance, tenancy, or occupancy rights to assisted housing based solely on certain criminal activity directly related to domestic violence engaged in by a member of the individual's household or by any guest or other person under the individual's control, if the tenant or an affiliated individual is the victim or threatened victim.

• Authorizing PHAs and assisted housing owners and managers to require certified documentation from any applicant claiming protection under the Act and permitting the denial or termination of assistance if such documentation is not produced.

• Requiring each executive department carrying out a covered housing program to adopt a model emergency transfer plan, meeting specified criteria, for PHAs and assisted housing owners and managers to use in allowing tenants who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking to transfer to another available and safe dwelling unit of assisted housing. The Act requires HUD to establish policies and procedures for emergency transfers for victims who, depending on availability, would be eligible for tenant protection vouchers.

The conforming amendments to the Act state that nothing in the Act shall be construed to disqualify an owner, manager, or other individual from participating in or receiving the benefits of the Housing Credit program because of noncompliance with the provisions of the Act.