HUD Indefinitely Suspends AFFH Rule, Withdraws Assessment Tool
HUD effectively suspended the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, a 2015 regulation that required any community receiving HUD development block-grant funding to routinely identify instances of racial segregation and provide solutions to counter them. Those local governments were required to submit a summary of their findings and goals to HUD for approval. A big part of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule was a computer tool that President Barack Obama’s HUD provided to local jurisdictions to help them analyze impediments to fair housing and document and map the results. Local governments that were not doing enough to overcome those impediments could be denied federal funding.
In January, HUD extended the deadline for submitting those assessments, and on May 18 HUD withdrew the assessment tool for complying with the rule. Claiming that the tool was too complicated to use, HUD reinstated an older process, which housing advocates say gives jurisdictions too much leeway to use billions in grant dollars without proper oversight.
Supporters viewed the Obama-era rule as a long-overdue addendum to the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which prohibited owners and landlords from refusing to sell or rent to minority groups but wasn’t adequately enforced. HUD, however, said in a press release that the AFFH rule was ineffective and the software created to complete the assessments was “confusing and difficult to use,” resulting in far too many unacceptable reports.
HUD provides block-grant funding to about 1,200 communities a year to provide decent affordable housing, offer services to vulnerable residents, and create jobs. Just 49 communities had used the new assessment process, according to HUD. It rejected a third of those assessments because they were missing information.
In response, the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, and Texas Appleseed joined together to file a lawsuit to demand an injunction to block Secretary Carson’s action, saying the delay of the rule and repeal of the computer tool was unlawful. According to the legal complaint, “[R]ather than going through a proper process of giving the public advance notice of and opportunity to provide input on this important decision, HUD acted abruptly and without any input from stakeholders. This flawed process has produced a flawed result and once again leaves local officials without the certainty and guidance they need to fulfill their statutory obligations.”
Before HUD Secretary Carson argued to suspend AFFH and the fair housing assessment tool, he argued the Obama rule amounted to a “social-engineering scheme.” In a 2015 op-ed in the Washington Times, Carson denounced “government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality.” He went on to argue the Obama-era rule would require affordable housing be built in primarily wealthy neighborhoods and marketed to minority residents and would “fundamentally change the nature of some communities” by overriding zoning laws.