The Fair Housing Act has two goals: to end housing discrimination and to promote diverse, inclusive communities. The second goal is referred to as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), and it embodies our strongly-held American values of fair access and equal opportunity.
Diverse, inclusive communities with access to good jobs, schools, health care, transportation, and housing are crucial to our nation’s prosperity in the 21st century. A hard-learned lesson from the recent economic crisis is that when some of our communities are targeted for discriminatory practices, all of our communities are harmed. Our global competitiveness is challenged when all of our communities do not have the opportunity to succeed together.
The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing provision was part of the Fair Housing Act when it was passed by Congress in 1968. Through that provision, Congress directed HUD to make sure that neither the agency itself, nor the cities, counties, states and public housing agencies it funds, discriminate in their programs. Further, Congress intended that HUD programs be used to expand housing choices and help make all neighborhoods places of opportunity, providing their residents with access to the community assets and resources they need to flourish. Unfortunately, too many jurisdictions have taken HUD funds but failed to fulfill their AFFH obligations. And for most of the 50 years since the passage of the Fair Housing Act, HUD has done little to correct this problem. In recent years, HUD increased oversight of its grantees’ fair housing compliance, and took steps to give them better tools to ensure they are connecting all of their residents to opportunity, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, family status or disability.
The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule
On July 16, 2015, the US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), the federal agency charged with writing the rules for the Fair Housing Act, issued a new regulation to implement the affirmatively furthering fair housing requirements of the Fair Housing Act. With this rule, HUD is providing its program participants (states, counties, municipalities and public housing agencies) with more effective means to affirmatively further the purposes and policies of the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
HUD received nearly 1,000 comments on the proposed rule, including comments from NFHA and comments from a group of 41 national civil rights, fair housing, women’s, disability, LGBT and consumer organizations and labor unions. While the rule did not incorporate all of the recommendations made by fair housing and civil rights advocates, it lays out a process that is substantially more clear, focused and results-oriented, and with greater accountability, than the old system it replaced. Advocates, grantees, the GAO, and HUD itself had determined that the previous system was not an effective way to ensure that either HUD or its grantees (also called program participants) were using their resources to expand housing choice and ensure that all neighborhoods are places of opportunity, thereby fulfilling their statutory obligations to affirmatively further fair housing.
In conjunction with the rule, HUD now provides its grantees with a format to use for analyzing local and regional fair housing issues, known as the Assessment of Fair Housing Tool. HUD launched the rule with an Assessment Tool for Local Governments and also developed one for Public Housing Agencies. Ultimately, there will be an additional Assessment Tool for states, as well. HUD also published a guidebook to help grantees through the process of conducting their required Assessments of Fair Housing (AFHs).
Along with the Assessment Tool, HUD also provides its grantees (and the public) with data, analytical tools and mapping tools (known as the “ AFFH data and mapping tool, or AFFH-T”) to help them carry out their responsibilities under the new rule. You can try HUD’s AFFH data and mapping tool to find information about your jurisdiction and region and analyze local housing needs, patterns of segregation and integration, and access to opportunity. And you can find a user guide for the data and mapping tool and other related resources here on HUD’s website.
AFFH UPDATE: HUD EFFECTIVELY SUSPENDS AFFH REGULATION
On January 5, 2018, HUD effectively suspended implementation of the agency’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulation. It did this by delaying program participants’ submission of the fair housing plans (known as Assessments of Fair Housing or AFHs) until after October 31, 2020. The submission of these fair housing plans is tied to the 5-year cycle under which program participants must submit their spending plans, (known as Consolidated Plans, or ConPlans), most of which must be submitted before October 31, 2020.
HUD’s action means that most program participants will not be required to submit a fair housing plan for HUD review until 2024 or 2025.
NFHA and other organizations urged HUD to reverse the action and to resume immediate implementation of the rule, but HUD indicated that it would not do so. Therefore, on May 8, 2018, NFHA, Texas Appleseed and Texas Housers filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that HUD had violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Fair Housing Act. Read more about that lawsuit here.
It was under the AI system, that HUD allowed CDBG funds to be used by the city of Zanesville and the East Muskingum Water Authority to build a water system that excluded the African American community called Coal Run. Federal funds were used to extend water lines up to and around Coal Run – totally excluding the African American community in a completely discriminatory fashion. Here is more about that case. Advocates and resident of Coal Run had to ultimately sue the city and Water Authority in order to get water. There are plenty of other examples of jurisdictions and housing authorities receiving federal funds while violating the Fair Housing Act. Just as another example, residents of the Baltimore Public Housing Authority won a fair housing claim against the housing authority after it had engaged in long-running practices to create and perpetuate segregation. Here is more about that case. The Baltimore PHA was also held liable for violating the Fair Housing Act because its employees were sexually harassing women. You can find out more about that case here. Here’s information about another housing authority in North Carolina in which the employees of a public housing authority were systemically sexually harassing women. Here’s information about a case involving Los Angeles County colluding with two cities and the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department to discriminate against people of color. The City of Houston was just sued for, in part using federal funds, to implement a separate and unequal water drainage system – one that provided inferior protection for predominately African-American and Latino communities.
The Assessment of Fair Housing process has proven to be helpful to communities that have undergone the process. For example, the City of Philadelphia discovered, because of its more thorough analysis, that it had a serious eviction problem that it had not adequately addressed because the city had not fully recognized the scope of the problem. This issue is driving family instability. The lack of affordable housing is exacerbating this issue for the city. The AFH process uncovered this issue and helped them formulate a plan that they believe will help them provide better assistance to residents.