FHWA Issues Final Rule Regarding ‘Uniform Act’ Updates

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a final rule updating the government-wide Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, which provides protections and assistance for people affected by federally-funded projects.

[Above photo by USDOT]

The FHWA was named as the lead agency to reform the Uniform Act – making it responsible for developing, issuing, and maintaining government-wide regulations and assistance to the 17 federal agencies covered by the act. That includes submitting an annual report to Congress regarding initiatives undertaken via the Uniform Act, FHWA noted.

This final rule – the first update in almost 20 years to the Uniform Act, according to an FHWA statement – makes important changes to help those displaced or otherwise affected by federally-funded projects.

It also includes important equity considerations, including raising the benefit levels to account for inflation; provides new authority to ensure future benefit levels are adjusted expeditiously; and improves benefits and services for displaced individuals to advance the equity goals of the Biden-Harris administration. 

The FHWA said its final rule enhances benefits and services focused on improving equity and fairness for tenants, homeowners, businesses, and other entities. Enhanced benefits and services include:

  • The rule updates key Uniform Act benefit levels to account for inflation since 2012, resulting in a 33 percent increase in benefit levels for people and businesses that are required to move as a result of federally-funded projects.
  • The rule clarifies that additional fees, such as credit check fees and application fees, are eligible for reimbursement.
  • The rule clarifies that – to the extent feasible – comparable replacement dwellings are to be selected from the neighborhood in which the displacement dwelling was located or, if that is not possible, in nearby or similar neighborhoods where housing costs are generally the same or higher. 
  • The rule highlights the information that should be gathered during the interview of soon-to-be displaced persons, in order to better understand their preferences and needs in replacement housing.
  • The rule includes a focus on the purpose of the relocation planning process, requiring agencies to plan projects to better identify problems and solutions to minimize adverse impacts of displacement on individuals, families, businesses, farms, and nonprofit organizations. 

Additional Uniform Act updates include streamlining government processes by reducing paperwork and administrative burdens of government regulations on the public and agencies subject to Uniform Act requirements, FHWA said.

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