Relationship Between the Uniform Act, 49 CFR, Part 24 and State and Local Agency Operating Procedures

Topic:

This article will discuss the relationship between the Uniform Act and 49 CFR, Part 24 and how the law got from Congress to the implementing rules under which Federal, State and local Agencies operate.


Discussion:

Congress passed a law in 1970 called the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act, also called the Uniform Act. The law was approved by the President and the Executive branch of government is then tasked with implementing it. This law applies to any program or project that has federal funds in any phase of the project. As part of the 1987 amendments to the Uniform Act, the law designated the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to act as the Lead Agency to implement the provisions of the Uniform Act. This is typically done through the issuance of federal regulations, which are codified in what is known as the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The Uniform Act regulations are found at 49 CFR Part 24. The FHWA coordinates with 18 other Federal Agencies that are subject to the provisions of the Uniform Act in the development of the regulations. For example, when the Federal Regulations were revised in 2005, FHWA took the lead in working with other Federal Agencies, primarily those that are most often involved in acquisition and displacement activities, such as FAA, HUD, FTA, USACE and GSA. This process for the 2005 regulation actually began much earlier and included research projects, listening sessions with the general public, a draft regulation issued for public comment and a final regulation addressing comments that were received. The final regulation when issued has the force and effect of law.

Any State or local government that uses federal funds in any phase of a project (planning, engineering, design, right-of-way, construction) must conduct its property acquisition and displacement activities in accordance with the Uniform Act and the Federal Regulations. These governmental entities are required to develop operating procedures that outline how they will carry out the Federal Regulations as required by the federal funding agency. A State DOT, for example, is required to develop and maintain a procedure manual that conforms to 49 CFR Part 24. This procedure manual should identify how an Agency will implement discretionary or elective provisions of the regulations, such as the amount of downpayment assistance for which a 90 day tenant will be eligible under 49 CFR 24.402(c). Will the displaced tenant be limited to the amount of the rental assistance eligibility or will the Agency allow a payment that is less than $5,250 to be increased to an amount not to exceed $5,250? Waiver valuations for valuation are another example of an option an Agency would have to decide whether to use or not. These decisions would be made and then included in its procedural statement. A State or local Agency also is required to submit assurances that it can comply with all requirements of Titles II and III of the Uniform Act and recite allowable exceptions, if any.

Some States will also sometimes publish its land acquisition procedures in the form of a State regulation in a way similar to the Federal procedure. Others maintain such procedures in a manual form that is not regulatory. How this is done is a State requirement and it varies throughout the nation. In either case, the procedures will usually be approved by the Federal funding agency providing the federal assistance.

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