Integrated, diverse communities benefit everyone, but segregation and concentrated poverty still plague municipalities across the country. That’s why it continues to be important to have federal rules that require localities that receive federal funding to affirmatively further fair housing goals.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently released proposed rules updating the regulations that carry out the parts of the Fair Housing Act that contain affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) requirements. Overall, the rules are a huge improvement and strengthen the tools used to ensure that communities are complying with AFFH. For example, HUD proposes replacing the ambiguous Analysis of Impediments (AI) with an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) that will have defined elements and that will spell out specific fair housing “issues” that fund recipients must identify, prioritize, and take proactive steps to address. Municipalities must incorporate community input while drafting an AFH.
Woodstock Institute and colleague organizations submitted a comment letter with recommendations that would make the proposed rules even stronger. We recommend methods for making AFHs more accountable to the public, such as creating a process for stakeholders and advocates to appeal a decision to accept an AFH and establishing and reporting on annual public benchmarks for progress towards fair housing goals. We also stressed the need for clarity on issues such as ensuring that members of protected classes not be concentrated near community hazards and that the final rule should state explicitly that all housing and community development programs, not just HUD-funded ones, should affirmatively further fair housing. Finally, we urged HUD to require communities to consider regional housing needs when assessing how well they are affirmatively furthering fair housing.