Statement on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

(August 4, 2020) On July 23, 2020, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) eliminated a regulatory framework known as affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH). AFFH is designed to ensure federal housing and community development funds are used in a manner that furthers fair housing choice for everyone. The rule change, issued without substantive debate or adherence to law or procedure, undermines fair housing in pursuit of racism and political gamesmanship. HUD’s decision will have a deleterious impact on decision-making in cities and counties across the country, intentionally eliminates a forum for a facts-based discussion on segregation and housing discrimination, and should raise alarm for fair housing advocates and local leaders. The Florida Housing Coalition opposes HUD’s rule and supports the reinstatement of the 2015 AFFH Final Rule.

From explicit racism in federal, state, and local policies to discrimination by real estate professionals, landlords, and lenders, the history of housing in the United States is a history of discrimination and racism. Our nation built its housing with segregation as a primary objective and actively crippled communities of color by denying them access to capital, flattening them to build highways, and segregating them by establishing land use regulations to bar disproportionately poor and Black residents from homes in expensive, and white, neighborhoods. Although the Fair Housing Act banned explicit housing discrimination in 1968, our nation still grapples with the lasting effects of those policies today. The AFFH framework is one of the only federal tools available to help communities recognize and address entrenched segregation and housing discrimination.

There is considerable disinformation on AFFH, much of which is used to justify HUD’s persistent efforts at undermining fair housing. AFFH is, in essence, a requirement and a planning exercise. First, AFFH is a requirement codified in the Fair Housing Act that the federal government, and by extension local governments receiving federal assistance, must affirmatively further fair housing. Second, AFFH is a planning exercise that relies on data to identify barriers to fair housing choice and establish a plan to address the barriers. The objective of these two components, in place since 1994 through administrations of both parties, is to ensure that billions of dollars in federal housing and community development grant programs are used in a manner which supports and advances fair housing. While these two components of AFFH may seem obscure, the product of the process is facts-based discussion on housing discrimination between residents, policymakers, and government officials in thousands of communities across the country.

HUD’s July 2020 rule eliminates the planning exercise component of AFFH and allows a local government to certify that it is affirmatively furthering fair housing so long as it “has taken some active step to promote fair housing.” This means local governments are no longer required to review fair housing data, or consult with the public and its partners, or coordinate with public housing authorities, or review lending data by race/ethnicity, or identify barriers to fair housing, or set goals for addressing barriers, or monitor outcomes. Instead, local officials are permitted to receive federal housing funds whether or not they take any action to further fair housing.

At a time of Black Lives Matters protests, when communities across the country are grappling with systemic discrimination on the basis of race, now is the time when our country, and communities across Florida, need tools like AFFH more than ever. The AFFH regulatory framework gives Florida and its local governments a clear and defined path to identify fair housing discrimination and take steps to address it. HUD should return to its core mission of creating strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. The Florida Housing Coalition will continue to advise local governments and their partners on ways to affirmatively further fair housing.

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