The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently proposed major changes to the 2013 disparate impact rule – a move that would make it harder for people to bring forward discrimination complaints under the Fair Housing Act. As if that wasn’t enough, HUD is now proposing to weaken another housing discrimination protection, called the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule (AFFH). Advocates must galvanize again to protect our most vulnerable populations from housing discrimination.
AFFH in 2015
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 established the legal duty to affirmatively further fair housing to address housing discrimination and segregation. It required HUD to take on inequitable housing practices and to foster inclusive communities.
However, until 2015, there was no federal regulation on how to actually implement the law. Although suspended in 2018 by HUD, the 2015 AFFH rule, in response to grantee requests for uniform guidance, requires jurisdictions and public housing authorities (PHAs) to analyze patterns of segregation and discriminatory housing practices for families with children, people of color, people with disabilities and other protected groups. Grantees are also required to take actions to address barriers to fair housing.
Further, the AFFH rule provides clear standards, including mapping and assessment tools to help jurisdictions analyze their housing markets and systemic barriers to housing.
HUD’s Current Proposal
HUD’s proposed rule would eliminate AFFH entirely, replacing it with a new rule that measures whether jurisdictions:
- are free of adjudicated fair housing claims
- have an adequate supply of affordable housing
- have an adequate supply of quality affordable housing
HUD’s proposal appears to conflate affordable housing with fair housing. Expanding affordable housing, while a valuable goal, will not necessarily address the problems with fair housing. It does not, for example, address segregation, and fails to provide grantees with clear standards on how to analyze performance on fair housing. The new rule does not guarantee that people with extremely low-incomes or disabilities will access housing.
Why This Rule Matters
People experiencing homelessness face a national shortage of affordable housing, with people of color and people with disabilities being particularly susceptible to the housing crisis.
People experiencing homelessness also often have few financial resources and far too often encounter discrimination when seeking housing. It remains extremely important to expand opportunities for vulnerable people, and to protect the rights guaranteed under the Fair Housing Act.
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on January 14. Comments are due to HUD by March 16, 2020. Please submit comments and encourage others to oppose the proposed AFFH rule. Let’s make sure we respond in volume to any attacks on fair housing gains.
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