The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in its capacity as Lead Agency and in compliance with the Presidential Memorandum of February 27, 1985, submits this report for the 2008 calendar year on the implementation of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (Uniform Act) as amended. The Secretary of Transportation delegated the Lead Agency responsibility to the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The Uniform Act applies to all programs or projects undertaken by Federal agencies or with Federal financial assistance that require the acquisition of real property or that cause displacement of any person. As Lead Agency, the FHWA's primary responsibilities are to: (1) develop, publish, issue, and maintain the necessary regulations to carry out provisions of the Uniform Act with all 18 affected Federal agencies actively involved in developing statutory and regulatory changes; (2) provide Uniform Act leadership, and advisory assistance, as well as materials for developing training, for all affected agencies; (3) monitor the implementation and enforcement of the Uniform Act, in coordination with other Federal agencies. In deference to other Federal agencies and to FHWA resource limitations, FHWA's monitoring activities are generally limited and are currently carried out at the request of other agencies; and (4) perform other duties necessary to assure compliance with the Uniform Act including information sharing with other agencies.
Each year FHWA, acting as Lead Agency, hosts informational meetings to identify and discuss Uniform Act implementation issues. The FHWA hosted two All Federal Agencies Uniform Act Implementation Meetings in May and November 2008. The FHWA committed to hosting three meetings for the coming year. Each meeting was well attended by representatives from a number of Federal agencies. In addition, the meetings were available by videoconference to provide remote FHWA field staff and other Federal agency staff the opportunity to participate. These meetings focused primarily on several Uniform Act implementation issues:
Mortgage Interest Differential Payment (MIDP)
The session focused on questions related to the calculation of a MIDP for a fixed rate mortgage. A series of discussions on the Real Estate Exchange, an open forum of shared experience and knowledge designed to identify and exchange best practices, showed that there were currently several methods used to calculate the MIDP for a fixed rate loan. The regulatory requirements and the challenging language in the appendix were described and discussed. The goal of the discussion at the meeting was to look at methods to document the expense incurred by the relocatee and to ensure that the appropriate reimbursement is made and that a uniform calculation method is followed. The FHWA is developing an online calculation tool which will follow the regulatory required method and will post the calculation tool on its Web site in 2009.
Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practices (USPAP)
The Appraisal Standard Board First Exposure Draft of the USPAP 2010-2011 was discussed. Highlights of the Exposure Draft included: (1) the definition of signature; (2) the definition of jurisdictional exception rule; (3) the ethics rule; and (4) the competency rule.
Treasury Offset Program (TOP) Waiver
The Office of Real Estate Services is working with the U.S. Department of the Treasury to develop a governmentwide TOP waiver for Uniform Act related payments. An initial request was sent early in the summer of 2008. Several meetings were held with TOP officials to discuss the request, the need for the waiver, and some suggested changes to the waiver request. A modified request is currently under review by the Office of the Secretary of Transportation. We hope to resubmit a modified waiver request in 2009.
Local Public Agency (LPA) Stewardship
The LPA stewardship is an FHWA priority. The FHWA as Lead Agency is developing a number of tools to ensure that LPAs understand and correctly carry out Uniform Act requirements. The Lead Agency has ongoing efforts focused on providing stewardship, including: revisions to the Real Estate Acquisition Guide for Local Public Agencies, a 2002 publicationand the collaborative effort with the National Highway Institute (NHI) to develop an NHI instructor led course to replace the LPA Workshop of 2005.
This discussion focused on the challenges created for both the agency and the property owners when a project requires the acquisition of properties with negative equity. Negative equity is defined as a situation in which a property is encumbered by a mortgage and/or other qualified liens which have a larger balance than the market value of the property. The FHWA has had recent discussions with several State departments of transportation who have projects planned or underway which will require the acquisition of properties with negative equity. As a result, FHWA committed to consider development of guidance or other tools to address the challenges of acquiring properties with negative equity. One tool developed during 2009 is a temporary programmatic waiver that will assist impacted owner occupants in satisfying their mortgages while being able to acquire and relocate to a replacement home.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP)
Joan Morgan, Director of the Office of Affordable Housing, Relocation Division, HUD, led a presentation on HUD's NSP program, established by the 2008 Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. HUD received $3.92 billion to grant to States and units of local government. The funds are targeted at acquiring foreclosed properties, properties with sub-prime percentage rate mortgages, delinquent or mortgage default properties that can be sold to individuals as primary residence at a cost that is less than, or equal to, the cost to redevelop. The program income is either returned to HUD or retained for use for another eligible activity.
Proposed Legislation and Uniform Act Implications
The Lead Agency led a discussion on several legislative proposals and implications they may have to Uniform Act implementation. The Lead Agency pointed to several potential economic stimulus proposals and committed to follow up with the Federal agencies should some of the legislation be enacted. The Lead Agency did lead a discussion during the April 2009 meeting on Uniform Act Implication of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). The Lead Agency pointed out that the Recovery Act does not provide any exemptions for existing Uniform Act requirements and regulations or from Federal-aid program right-of-way requirements. Meeting participants were directed to "Q&A's" and other sources on the FHWA Web site for further Recovery Act guidance.
Low Income Calculations
The FHWA as Lead Agency worked collaboratively with representatives from HUD to revise the information tables and guidance on determining and calculating Uniform Act Low Income Limits for displaced persons, in conjunction with HUD's annual issuance of the "Income Limit Area Definition and Low Income Limits" effective February 13, 2008.
Uniform Act Statutory Update
The FHWA continued to work on a legislative proposal of suggested updates to the Uniform Act. The proposal is currently under review by the FHWA Office of Chief Counsel.
Uniform Act Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Based on discussions with several Federal agencies, State departments of transportation and consultants, FHWA committed to consider the addition of questions to address the consistency of the regulations and appendix related to the MIDP calculations. Since that discussion FHWA developed two FAQ's which address the questions raised during the meeting.
Federal Agency Update (FAU), formerly Public Real Estate Education Symposium, was held in January 2008. The Office of Real Estate Services participated as co-sponsors of FAU, facilitated by the International Right of Way Association in Nevada. The Lead Agency led sessions including a Federal agency update on Nevada DOT's Geographic Information System and right-of-way system.
In 2008 the FHWA met with several Federal partners to discuss Uniform Act implementation concerns and issues. We facilitated a discussion covering the concept of "cognizant agency" with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and HUD. This meeting focused on the requirements of 49 CFR Part 24.6 as the agency continues to work on developing a standard cognizant agency agreement.
The Lead Agency facilitated a "constructive occupancy" determination discussion with representatives from the USACE on methods to determine relocation assistance eligibility in accordance with the requirements of 49 CFR 24.403(d), for several anticipated USACE projects. The USACE used information from the meeting in its work on developing a constructive occupancy determination policy on the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program.
Federal Appraiser Workshop
The Office of Real Estate Services worked with Chief Appraisers of other Federal agencies to develop a program and agenda. The annual Federal appraiser workshop was held in June 2008 in Washington, D.C. The event provided a forum for Federal appraisers to discuss appraisal hot topics, changes to USPAP, and to participate in continuing education. The FHWA refreshed participants on the appraisal and appraisal review requirements of the Uniform Act and 49 CFR Part 24.102(c), the appraisal waiver option, and the appropriate application of the jurisdictional exception rule of USPAP.
Right-of-Way and Utility International Scan, 2008
In September 2008 an International Scan entitled "Integrating and Streamlining Right-of-Way and Utility Processes with Planning, Environment and Design" was conducted in Australia and Canada. Gerald Solomon, Director, FHWA Office of Real Estate Services, and John Campbell, Director, TxDOT Right-of-Way Division, co-chaired the scan team. The scan report was finalized in the early part of 2009. The Office of Real Estate Services is working with stakeholders to implement the scan recommendations, develop guidance for pilot projects, conduct workshops and update right-of-way practices.
AASHTOWare® has put together a task group of State departments of transportation, local public agencies, and the FHWA professionals to develop specifications for a software product to calculate relocation benefits. In 2007, AASHTO announced the availability of a Request for Information for a new AASHTOWare® product to be developed through its cooperative software development program. Turbo Relocation® is a software solution which will address a need to automate relocation calculations to facilitate compliance with the Uniform Act. In 2008, AASHTOWare® convened a steering committee to develop a request for proposals.
The FHWA continues to participate as a member of the steering committee, and provide technical expertise and advice throughout the ongoing development of Turbo Relocation®.
Federal Land Transfers Manual
The Office of Real Estate Services has issued a new Manual for Federal Land Transfers for Federal-Aid Projects. The manual introduces administration of the Federal land transfer process to State departments of transportation in accordance with 23 CFR 710.601.A Federal land transfer forum on the Real Estate Exchange Community of Practice includes a reference section for sample agreements, including pertinent Federal land transfer information and links.
FHWA Right-of-Way Project Development Guide (PDG)
The Office of Real Estate Services is updating the 16 chapters of the PDG. This will bring the guide up to date with current regulations and guidance. The PDG was posted in May.
During 2008, the FHWA Office of Real Estate Services and other Federal agencies worked together to expand their collective knowledge about the Uniform Act training needs and availability. The Lead Agency has undertaken a number of initiatives in 2009 which address needs identified during the 2008 meetings.
For more information on the FHWA Uniform Act resources, efforts and reports, please visit http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/real_estate.