#ZipCodeMatters: HUD issues new and important fair housing regulation

The Obama administration has just announced a much-anticipated regulation designed to make the Fair Housing Act more effective at eliminating racial housing discrimination. The new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule was issued today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and requires state and local governments and housing authorities to target the barriers to fair housing for people of color.

From now on, agencies must set goals aimed at reducing housing segregation and investigate any racial disparities caused by their housing policies. Agencies will release reports on their AFFH efforts every three to five years for review. And for the first time, HUD will provide substantial data and demographic information for policymakers to use in determining their community’s fair housing needs.

Along with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on disparate impact, the new AFFH rule is extremely encouraging for the future of fair housing in the United States. Recent events have showcased the need to address legacies of racial discrimination and segregation. The Fair Housing Act, and this new mechanism to make it stronger, is meant to promote diverse and inclusive communities and overcome segregation’s harmful effects. HUD has emphasized every jurisdiction’s responsibility to affirmatively further fair housing, and to use housing resources to expand access to opportunity for everyone in a community, regardless of where they live.

Zip code matters. As recent studies have shown, growing up in a low income, segregated community makes it much more likely that you’ll stay poor for the rest of your life. Fair housing tools can break down the structural barriers that keep families in low opportunity neighborhoods – but only if they’re used, affirmatively and forcefully, by local agencies. In Texas, we’ve seen recent efforts to do just the opposite. The state went all the way to the Supreme Court in an unsuccessful attempt to continue segregating low income apartments in minority neighborhoods. The legislature voided an Austin ordinance meant to protect families with housing vouchers from discrimination.

But it’s been a positive few weeks for fair housing in America. With the new AFFH rule, local policymakers have a clear framework for establishing and overcoming obstacles to racial inclusion and housing opportunity. All communities benefit when every family, regardless of race or income level, has access to a safe home near good schools and good jobs. We all have a stake in eliminating housing barriers. Let’s use this new opportunity to make Texas a fairer and more equitable place for everyone to live.