On the last day of 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the final version of its assessment tool for local governments to use when submitting fair housing plans. The assessment tool, along with an accompanying guidebook and new website, marks the beginning of the rollout of the new affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) regulation announced by HUD last summer.
The new AFFH rule requires state and local governments to set goals for reducing racial housing segregation, removing barriers to fair housing for people of color and investigating racial disparities caused by their housing policies. According to HUD, jurisdictions will assess:
- Patterns of integration and segregation;
- Racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty;
- Disparities in access to opportunity; and
- Disproportionate housing needs.
The regulation will take effect in 2016 in a handful of jurisdictions, though none in Texas, and will expand in scope over the next few years. Five local governments in Texas will be required to submit plans in 2017, including Harris County, the most populous county in the state, as well as Galveston, Hidalgo County, Lewisville and Missouri City.
The assessment tool is for local governments which receive federal funding via Community Development Block Grants, HOME, the forthcoming National Housing Trust Fund and other programs. A separate tool will soon be released for state governments and public housing agencies. The tool provides instructions, questions, demographic data, maps and other information to help jurisdictions prepare their fair housing assessments according to HUD guidelines. The assessment includes the examination of past housing goals, a study of local demographic changes, an analysis of contributing factors to segregation as well as access to educational, employment, transportation and environmental opportunity and much more.
Now that the tool has been released, the 2016 participating jurisdictions can begin the four-step process that HUD envisions for fair housing plan implementation. First, HUD provides the tool along with technical guidance in its usage. Second, jurisdictions use the tool to prepare a fair housing plan in accordance with HUD guidelines. Third, HUD reviews each plan within 60 days, and either approves a community’s fair housing strategy or rejects it if the plan “is inconsistent with fair housing or civil rights requirements.” Fourth, approved plans are incorporated into a jurisdiction’s action plans and planning processes.
The end goal is an improved consideration of fair housing in local decision-making around the country – and, hopefully, real action in addressing the policies and conditions that lead to racial segregation. Texas won’t get its chance to use the new tool for more than a year, but in the meantime, we recommend that you track the progress of AFFH implementation along with the National Low Income Housing Coalition.