HUD Resumes Leadership on Effort to Combat Segregation: Submit a Comment in Support
By Nick Adjami
February 15, 2023
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is probably best known as the law that prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status. These protections are crucial, but by the time the Act became law in 1968, decades of discriminatory policies had created an unjust playing field for marginalized people that would not be corrected simply by outlawing future discrimination. Thankfully, those responsible for drafting the Act recognized these entrenched harms and the work that would be required to undo them. So, they included an “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” (AFFH) provision that required “all executive departments and agencies”– including the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and HUD programs — to proactively promote fair housing and integration.
Unfortunately, 55 years later, astonishingly little progress has been made toward achieving that goal. Deep segregation persists, suggesting that federal, state, and local governments across the country have not seriously acted on their shared duty to affirmatively further fair housing. For many years, HUD program participants lacked meaningful regulations and oversight to guide their efforts. In 2015, that started to change when HUD under the Obama Administration issued a rule designed to clarify and enforce jurisdictions’ AFFH obligations. The 2015 rule states: “Affirmatively furthering fair housing means taking meaningful actions, in addition to combating discrimination, that overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics.” The rule envisioned segregation being replaced by “truly integrated and balanced living patterns,” and “racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty” transforming into “areas of opportunity.”
In a devastating move, the Trump Administration suspended and then scrapped the rule entirely, slowing efforts at progress across the country and leading to litigation. However, fair housing advocates have continued to push HUD to embrace its responsibility to affirmatively further fair housing. In order to advance integration and satisfy the FHA’s mandate, HUD must resume its role in providing clarity about the initiative’s goals and the oversight it will require.
Thankfully, last month the Biden administration announced a new AFFH rule expanding on the Obama-era guidance. The new rule presents an exciting opportunity for local jurisdictions and HUD to work together to finally make progress toward integration and equal housing opportunities for all. Three dozen housing and civil rights groups applauded the release of the rule, calling it “an important step toward creating more equitable and affordable housing opportunities and stronger, more viable neighborhoods.”
Where a person lives matters: it determines access to resources and life outcomes like educational achievement and life expectancy. Everyone deserves access to quality housing in the neighborhood of their choice.
On February 9, 2023, the Biden administration posted their AFFH rule to the Federal Register, meaning it is open for public comment. The administration must consider all comments submitted and may use them to adjust the rule before finalizing and enacting it. The comment period presents a historic opportunity for communities that have faced decades of housing discrimination and exclusion to help design a more just future. Take advantage of this chance to amplify your perspective and strengthen this critical tool for advancing housing justice: submit a comment by April 10, 2023. For assistance making your comment as impactful as possible, see PolicyLink’s public comment guide.
The Equal Rights Center (ERC) — a national non-profit organization — is a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations in its home community of Greater Washington DC and nationwide. The ERC’s core strategy for identifying unlawful and unfair discrimination is civil rights testing. When the ERC identifies discrimination, it seeks to eliminate it through the use of testing data to educate the public and business community, support policy advocacy, conduct compliance testing and training, and, if necessary, take enforcement action. For more information, please visit www.equalrightscenter.org.