NLIHC Joins Letter to USDA Rural Housing Service Urging Guidance for Housing Providers on Maintaining VAWA Protections

NLIHC joined national partners in submitting a letter on July 13 to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue urging the agency to release guidance to Rural Housing Service (RHS) providers on complying with housing protections established in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The letter requests that RHS issue new VAWA guidance detailing how owners and managers of RHS-funded properties can best meet the needs of survivors and comply with VAWA obligations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Communities across the country have seen an increase in incidents of domestic violence since the implementation of stay-at-home orders, and housing providers play a crucial role in ensuring survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking are able to access safe, stable housing and supportive services. The letter encourages housing providers to work with state and local domestic/sexual violence coalitions to develop best practices to assist tenants experiencing violence, particularly in light of limited staffing and capacity due to the coronavirus.

Despite the fact that Congress has not reauthorized VAWA since 2013, protections guaranteed to survivors in the bill remain in effect. Yet the failure to reauthorize VAWA has caused “significant confusion about the force and effect” of the law among RHS providers. While the CARES Act eviction moratorium protects individuals in VAWA-covered housing programs from evictions related to non-payment of rent, under VAWA survivors of violence cannot face eviction or have their housing subsidy terminated for reasons related to their status as a survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The letter urges RHS to issue updated resources outlining applicable VAWA protections.

Additionally, the letter requests RHS to encourage owners to accept admission applications from survivors at any time and to open waiting lists as soon as practicable to allow survivors residing in congregate shelter to move into permanent housing as quickly as possible. VAWA also obligates owners and managers of Rural Development (RD) housing to facilitate lease bifurcations and emergency transfers to other RD units, and does not require owners and managers to obtain written proof of violence from survivors.

Read the letter at: