Overview of the Uniform Relocation Act (URA)
The Uniform Act, passed by Congress in 1970, is a federal law that establishes minimum standards for federally funded programs and projects that require the acquisition of real property or displace persons from their homes, businesses or farms. The Act’s protections and assistance apply to the acquisition, rehabilitation, or demolition of real property for federal or federally funded projects. The Act does not apply to private activities, but persons involved in projects funded by state or local governments should be aware that those programs might have their own relocation requirements. 49 CFR Part 24 is the government-wide regulation that implements the URA. HUD Handbook 1378 provides HUD policy and guidance in implementing the URA and 49 CFR Part 24 for HUD funded programs and projects. This overview covers only requirements relating to residential displacement.
When displacing a tenant from a residence, the following services are required:
- Provide relocation advisory services to displaced tenants and owner occupants;
- Provide a minimum 90-days written notice to vacate prior to requiring possession;
- Reimburse for moving expenses; and
- Provide payments for the added cost of renting or purchasing comparable replacement housing.
Planning the Relocation Program
- Planning can “make” or “break” your project. A well planned project may be completed on time and on schedule, whereas, a poorly planned project can result in delays, funding shortfalls, bad publicity, and even legal action. As a result, all acquisition and relocation activities should begin early in the project planning process.
- Section 205 of the URA requires that, “Programs or projects undertaken by a federal agency or with federal financial assistance shall be planned in a manner that:
- Recognizes, at an early stage in the planning of such programs or projects and before the commencement of any actions which will cause displacements, the problems associated with the displacement of individuals, families, businesses, and farm operations, and
- Provides for the resolution of such problems in order to minimize adverse impacts on displaced persons and to expedite program or project advancement and completion.”
- Agencies should plan their projects to ensure adequate time, funding, and staffing is available to carry out their responsibilities under the URA.
- What issues do you need to consider when planning for acquisition and relocation?
- Minimizing Displacement: HUD requires that all reasonable steps be taken to minimize displacement as a result of a HUD assisted project.
- Budgetary Implications: Planning is essential to ensure that sufficient funds are available to comply with all applicable requirements. Plan early so that project budgets will include realistic estimates for acquisition and relocation expenses.
- Coordination of the Project: The grantee should take steps to coordinate activities and facilitate cooperation among government agencies, neighborhood groups, and persons affected by the project. This will ensure that the project can proceed efficiently and with minimal duplication of effort.
- Determining Resource Needs: During the planning stage, HUD recommends that the grantee review applicable relocation policies, staffing needs, and training or other capacity building needs to anticipate any issues that may hinder the acquisition and relocation process.
- Administrative Requirements: Grantees must adhere to HUD administrative requirements involved in the planning for acquisition and relocation projects.
Definition of “Program or Project”
The phrase “program or project” is defined in 49 CFR Part 24 as, “any activity or series of activities undertaken by a federal agency or with federal financial assistance received or anticipated in any phase of an undertaking in accordance with the federal funding agency guidelines.” The “any phase” language is important. For example, privately owned housing with low-income housing tax credits are not subject to the URA, but if the water/sewer lines for the project were paid for by Community Development Block Grant funds (CDBG), the URA would apply.
Details are found in 49 CFR 24.2(a)(22), and Chapter 1 and 8 of HUD Handbook 1378.
Among the HUD programs covered:
Section 108 Loan Guarantees;
State CDBG program;
Shelter plus Care;
Supportive Housing Program;
Emergency Shelter Grants;
Public Housing Capital Fund Program;
Project Based Voucher Program;
Section 811; and
Section 8 LMSA for projects with HUD-insured and HUD-held mortgages.
Voluntary Acquisition vs. Involuntary Acquisition of Property
Oftentimes, HUD funded projects require the acquisition of real property. Agencies may acquire the needed real property from owners by voluntary or involuntary means. Under the URA, an acquisition is considered to be involuntary when an agency acquires property under threat or use of eminent domain. Eminent domain is the power of the government to take private property for public purposes with payment of just compensation.
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that “private property shall not be taken without payment of just compensation” and that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law.” These constitutional rights form the basis of the URA’s protections for property owners.
The URA requirements for voluntary acquisitions and involuntary acquisitions differ significantly. While there are protections for property owners in both circumstances, only involuntary acquisitions trigger the full acquisition requirements of the URA found in 49 CFR Part 24 Subpart B.
Grantees must understand the critical differences between voluntary acquisitions and involuntary acquisitions under the URA before acquiring property for a HUD funded project.
What makes a transaction “voluntary”?
- For agencies with eminent domain authority, if:
- No specific site is needed and any of several properties could be acquired for project purposes; and
- The property is not part of an intended, planned or designated project area where other properties will be acquired within specific time limits; and
- The agency informs the owner in writing of the property’s market value; and
- The agency also informs the owner in writing that the property will not be acquired, through condemnation, if negotiations do not reach an amicable agreement.
- If tenants are displaced, the tenants are provided relocation assistance.
- For agencies without eminent domain authority, if:
- The agency notifies the owner in writing of the property’s market value; and
- The agency notifies the owner prior to making an offer, that it will not acquire property if an amicable settlement cannot be reached.
- If tenants are displaced, the tenants are provided relocation assistance.
Where can you go to find more information about voluntary and involuntary acquisition?
You should consult 49 CFR 24.101(b)(1)-(5) and Chapter 5 of HUD Handbook 1378 for more guidance.
Key Acquisition Steps – Involuntary Acquisition
The following steps represent the general process an agency must follow under the URA when acquiring property under threat of eminent domain:
- Notify owner of the agency’s intentions to acquire the property and their protections under the URA
- Appraise the property and invite the owner to accompany the appraiser
- Review the appraisal
- Establish just compensation for the property
- Provide owner with written offer and summary statement for property to be acquired
- Negotiate with owner for the purchase of property
- If negotiations are successful, complete the sale and reimburse property owner for related incidental expenses
- If negotiations are unsuccessful, consider an administrative settlement to complete the sale
- If negotiations are still unsuccessful, the agency should acquire the property through use of eminent domain
What is “just compensation”?
Just compensation is derived from the appraisal process. Typically, the approved appraisal’s estimate of fair market value is the basis for the amount of just compensation offered for the property to be acquired. Just compensation cannot be less than the approved appraisal’s estimate of fair market value of the property being acquired.
What is an administrative settlement?
When negotiations result in a purchase price exceeding the agency’s estimate of just compensation, it is called an administrative settlement. Administrative settlements are made for administrative reasons that are considered to be in the best interest of the public. Authorized agency officials may approve administrative settlements if they are:
- Prudent, and
- In the public interest
Agency files should include proper documentation to justify and support the decision for an administrative settlement.
Who is Displaced? / Who is Not Displaced?
Who is a Displaced Person?
Generally, a displaced person under the URA is an individual, family, partnership, association, corporation, or organization, which moves from their home, business, or farm, or moves their personal property, as a direct result of acquisition, demolition or rehabilitation for a federally funded project. Displaced persons are eligible for relocation assistance under the URA.
Who is Not Displaced?
Generally, persons not displaced are not eligible for relocation assistance under the URA. Examples of persons not displaced include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Persons displaced temporarily from their dwelling for less than 12 months while it is being rehabilitated
- Illegal aliens; the URA prohibits providing relocation assistance to persons not lawfully present in the U.S.
The URA contains specific definitions of a “displaced person” and “persons not displaced.” These definitions in addition to the HUD handbook should be used when making any determinations of relocation eligibility. When in doubt, grantees should contact their HUD Regional Relocation Specialist for assistance.
The URA regulations require three (3) notices to be issued to eligible persons. These notices provide important information about the project, the affected persons’ resulting rights, their protections, and their eligibility for relocation assistance and payments under the URA. It is critical for agencies to issue appropriate notices to affected persons at the appropriate time.
One of the most important URA notices is the 90-Day Notice. No person shall be required to move without a minimum of 90 days written notice of the required date of the move.
HUD has specific requirements relating to the three URA notices and also requires additional notices be issued when conducting acquisition and relocation activities for HUD funded programs and projects. Agencies should refer to the HUD handbook for more information on this topic.
What notices are required under the URA?
- General Information Notice (GIN): Informs affected persons of the project and that they may be displaced by the project.
- Notice of Relocation Eligibility: Informs persons that they will be displaced by the project and establishes their eligibility for relocation assistance and payments.
- 90-Day Notice: Informs displaced persons of the earliest date by which they will be required to move. This notice may not be issued unless a comparable replacement dwelling is available and the displaced person is informed of its location and has sufficient time to lease or purchase the property.
Relocation Advisory Services
In addition to being required by law, relocation advisory services are the single most important part of a successful relocation program. Relocation advisory services are required to be provided to all eligible displaced persons including nonresidential displaced persons.
What are some key relocation advisory services requirements?
- Determine the needs and preferences of displaced persons
- Explain available relocation assistance
- Explain a person’s right to appeal if they are not satisfied with agency decisions
- Offer and provide transportation to locate replacement housing
- Offer other assistance (e.g. social services or financial referrals, housing inspection, etc.)
- Provide current and ongoing listings of comparable dwellings for residential displacements and replacement sites for businesses
- Supply information on other federal and state programs offering assistance
- Provide counseling and other assistance to minimize hardship in adjusting to relocation
- And other required and appropriate assistance
In addition to relocation advisory services, residential displaced persons may be eligible for other relocation assistance including relocation payments for moving expenses and replacement housing payments for the increased costs of renting or purchasing a comparable replacement dwelling.
What types of moving payment options are available to residential displaced persons?
The URA provides the following moving payment options:
- Payment for the actual, reasonable moving costs and related expenses;
- Payment based on a fixed schedule; or
- A combination of both based on circumstances
In cases where a displaced person’s move is performed by the agency at no cost to the person, the displaced person should receive a $100 expense and dislocation allowance.
What types replacement housing payments are available to residential displaced persons?
The URA provides for different replacement housing payments (RHP) based on a displaced person’s occupancy status and length of occupancy. Tenant occupants may be eligible for a rental assistance payment to supplement the costs of leasing a comparable replacement dwelling, or downpayment assistance payment to purchase a replacement dwelling. Owner occupants may be eligible for a price differential payment, mortgage interest differential payment, or incidental payments to supplement the costs of purchasing a comparable replacement dwelling.
- For tenant occupants of 90 days or more:
A rental assistance payment is based on the difference, if any, between the cost of the monthly rent and utilities of the displacement dwelling and a comparable decent, safe, and sanitary replacement dwelling, as determined by the agency. The URA established a 42-month period for supplementing this payment difference, for a total amount up to $5,250.
It is important to note that a rental assistance payment should be based on income for low-income persons. (See 49 CFR 24.402(b).
Furthermore, tenant occupants may be eligible to use their rental assistance payment as a downpayment for the purchase of a replacement dwelling.
- For owner occupants of 180 days or more
A price differential payment is based on the difference, if any, between the acquisition price of the acquired dwelling and the purchase price of a comparable decent, safe, and sanitary replacement dwelling, as determined by the agency. The URA established a maximum amount of $22,500 for a RHP for 180-day owner occupants.
- For owner occupants of 90 to 180 days
Short-term owners may be eligible for similar assistance as tenant occupants listed above.
Housing of Last Resort
The URA requires that comparable decent, safe, and sanitary replacement (DSS) housing within a person’s financial means be made available before that person may be displaced. When such housing cannot be provided by using replacement housing payments, the URA provides for “housing of last resort.” Housing of last resort may involve the use of replacement housing payments that exceed the URA maximum amounts. Housing of last resort may also involve the use of other methods of providing comparable decent, safe, and sanitary housing within a person’s financial means.
Agencies have broad flexibility in the use of housing of last resort. It is intended to enable agencies to respond to difficult or special displacements, but it should not be used as a substitute for lack of time or lack of relocation advisory services.
Remember that it is crucial to identify potential housing of last resort situations early so that they may be addressed in a proper manner.
Sometimes a project may require persons to be displaced from their dwellings for only a short period of time. Although temporarily displaced persons do not receive the same relocation assistance and payments as persons permanently displaced under the URA, they do have certain rights and protections.
What are the requirements for temporary relocation?
- When necessary or appropriate, residential tenants who will not be required to move permanently may be required to relocate temporarily for the project. Temporary relocation should not extend beyond one year before the person is returned to his or her previous unit or location.
- Any residential tenant who has been temporarily relocated for more than one year must be offered all permanent relocation assistance, which may not be reduced by the amount of any temporary relocation assistance previously provided.
- All conditions of temporary relocation must be reasonable. At a minimum, the tenant shall be provided the following:
- Reimbursement for all reasonable out-of-pocket expenses incurred in connection with the temporary relocation, including the cost of moving to and from the temporarily occupied housing and any increase in monthly rent or utility costs at such housing.
- Appropriate advisory services, including reasonable advance written notice of the following:
o Date and approximate duration of the temporary relocation;
o Address of the suitable decent, safe, and sanitary dwelling to be made available for the temporary period;
o Terms and conditions under which the tenant may lease and occupy a suitable decent, safe and sanitary dwelling in the building/complex upon completion of the project; and
o Provisions of reimbursement for all reasonable out of pocket expenses incurred in connection with the temporary relocation as noted above.
Overview of Section 104(d)
Section 104(d) of the Housing and Community Development Act (HCD) provides minimum requirements for certain HUD funded programs or projects.
Which HUD programs are subject to Section 104(d) requirements?
What are the Section 104(d) requirements?
- Funding recipients must certify they have in effect and are following a Residential Antidisplacement and Relocation Assistance Plan (RARAP);
- Relocation assistance to lower-income residential tenants displaced as a direct result of demolition of any dwelling unit or conversion of a lower-income dwelling unit in connection with an assisted activity; and
- Replacement, on a one-for-one basis, of all occupied and vacant occupiable lower-income dwelling units that are demolished or converted to a use other than lower income dwelling units in connection with an assisted activity
What are the relocation requirements under Section 104(d)?
The relocation assistance and payments for eligible persons under Section 104(d) are similar to those required for the URA but there are a number of differences. One significant difference between the laws is the period of time used to calculate a rental assistance payment; Section 104(d) uses 60 months vs. 42 months for the URA. Section 104(d)-eligible displaced persons may also choose to receive relocation assistance under Section 104(d) or relocation assistance under the URA.
What are the guiding regulations for Section 104(d) relocation requirements?
Section 104(d) Regulations: 24 CFR Part 42 is the regulation that implements Section 104(d) of the Housing and Community Development Act.