The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has proposed a new rule for how local jurisdictions must comply with the fair housing requirement that they affirmatively further fair housing.
The requirement is at the heart of Westchester County’s legal troubles with the Fair Housing Act that led to a 2009 settlement still bedeviling the county. A District Court found the county had falsely certified that it had affirmatively furthered fair housing because it didn’t analyze race in its study of impediments to fair housing. The analysis is still at the center of the problems with the implementation of the settlement, particularly the analysis of zoning.
The new rule will replace the Analysis of Impediments with a new process for analyzing obstacles to fair housing and developing plans to overcome them. In proposing the rule, HUD acknowledged that the old way didn’t work well; the requirements were vague and little enforced.
“HUD’s Fair Housing Planning Guide (Planning Guide), a document issued in 1996, provides extensive suggestions but does not fully articulate the goals that AFFH must advance,” the proposed rule says. “In addition, HUD has never provided data to grantees to help frame their analysis, and AIs are not regularly submitted to HUD for review.”
It goes on to say: “the GAO found that there has been uneven attention paid to the AI by local communities in part because sufficient guidance and clarity was viewed as lacking. Specifically, GAO noted the uneven quality of existing AIs and found that ‘HUD’s limited regulatory requirements and oversight’ contribute to many grantees placing a ‘low priority on ensuring that their AIs serve as effective planning tools.'”
Here’s more from HUD:
HUD PUBLISHES NEW PROPOSED RULE ON AFFIRMATIVELY FURTHERING FAIR HOUSING
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a new proposed rule to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH) in the Federal Register today and made available background materials and a prototype geospatial tool. AFFH refers to the 1968 Fair Housing Act’s obligation for state and local governments to improve and achieve more meaningful outcomes from fair housing policies, so that every American has the right to fair housing, regardless of their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or familial status.
“This proposed rule represents a 21st century approach to fair housing, a step forward to ensuring that every American is able to choose to live in a community they feel proud of – where they have a fair shot at reaching their full potential in life,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “For the first time ever, HUD will provide data for every neighborhood in the country, detailing the access African American, Latino, Asian, and other communities have to local assets, including schools, jobs, transportation, and other important neighborhood resources that can play a role in helping people move into the middle class. Long-term solutions will involve various strategies, such as helping people gain access to different neighborhoods and channeling investments into underserved areas. ”
The proposed rule was drafted in response to a 2010 GAO report and numerous requests from stakeholders, advocates, and HUD program participants seeking clear guidance and technical assistance. The proposed rule refines existing requirements so the individuals, organizations, and state and local governments implementing HUD programs better understand their requirements under the Fair Housing Act and have the tools they need to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing, ensuring that every American has the opportunity to live in the community of their choice without facing discrimination.
Under the proposed new rule, HUD will provide program participants with:
• A more clearly articulated definition of what it means to affirmatively further fair housing;
• An assessment template that replaces the current, loosely defined Analysis of Impediments;
• Nationally uniform data and a geospatial tool; and
• Clear guidance and technical assistance.
As part of a larger, locally-driven assessment process with public input, the data and guidance will provide an invaluable starting point as communities work to better understand their fair housing barriers and establish clear goals. Goals developed in the assessment process will connect to investment plans at the local and state levels where communities will outline their strategies. HUD anticipates that the new AFFH rule will empower local decision-making and foster smart government and better housing policies. The new rule will also better fulfill the aims of the Fair Housing Act through this proposed AFFH process rooted in data and integrated into other planning processes.
As part of the rule making process, members of the public will have an opportunity to review the proposed AFFH rule and submit their thoughts, comments or questions via Regulations.gov. The public comment period will last for 60 days starting on Friday July 19th.