public-policy newsletter

Proposed Fair Housing Regulation Would Harm Fair Housing Efforts

January 28, 2020

By Zachary Tashman

On January 7, 2020, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a proposed rule that would weaken the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulatory requirement on state and local governments receiving HUD funding to report on housing discrimination and access problems under the 1968 Fair Housing Act (FHA), as well as remediation plans. The FHA “prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and handicap” and “requires that HUD affirmatively further fair housing.”

The 2015 AFFH rule mandates that HUD provide various data “to make program participants better able to evaluate their present environment to assess fair housing issues such as segregation, conditions that restrict fair housing choice, and disparities in access to housing and opportunity, identify the factors that primarily contribute to the creation or perpetuation of fair housing issues, and establish fair housing priorities and goals” to address them. A 2010 Government Accountability Office report found that previous HUD requirements and oversight were inadequate, leading to deficient fair housing plans.

The proposed rule would eliminate the current AFFH assessment tools and replace them with a standard that takes into account legal findings of civil rights violations under cases brought by HUD or the Department of Justice (DOJ) and whether there is an adequate affordable housing supply. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), “While some elements of these measures are valuable, they are deeply flawed measures of a jurisdiction’s success in meeting its duty to affirmatively further fair housing.” Not only would this proposed rule restrict HUD’s ability to take action on valuable housing data that have been used to shed light on discriminatory behaviors, but as CBPP notes, most lawsuits involving a violation of the FHA are brought by local agencies and nonprofit organizations (not HUD or DOJ) and result in settlements. Under the proposed rule, such cases would not constitute civil rights violations, diluting the value of this metric. Similarly, the proposed rule’s required affordable housing data would not indicate housing discrimination. Finally, the new regulation would weaken HUD oversight. For more information on the proposed regulation, see CBPP’s statement, “Trump Administration Rule Would Reverse Communities’ Progress Toward Meeting Fair Housing Obligations.”

Undercutting the AFFH rule would negatively impact countless communities’ ability to identify and effectively combat housing discrimination and segregation. Where a family lives impacts everything from the schools children attend to the air people breathe and the water they drink. By not vigorously enforcing fair housing standards, this proposed rule would undermine one of the foundational building blocks of our society — quality, affordable, fair housing — that allows families to achieve their full potential and contribute to our communities. The National Assembly strongly opposes this proposed rule and urges HUD to retain and enforce the 2015 AFFH regulatory requirements.

Take Action

The National Assembly encourages our member organizations and partners to submit comments opposing this rule change by the March 16 deadline. Comments should highlight any expertise and data your organization has on the subject. The National Assembly will submit and post comments, as well as continue to track this issue closely. For more information contact Zachary Tashman.