The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced its final rule on affirmatively furthering fair housing.

HUD said the move “equips communities that receive HUD funding with data and tools to help them meet long-standing fair housing obligations in their use of HUD funds. The agency will also provide additional guidance and technical assistance to facilitate local decision-making on fair housing priorities and goals for affordable housing and community development.”

Julian Castro, HUD secretary
Julian Castro

“As a former mayor, I know firsthand that strong communities are vital to the well-being and prosperity of families,” said HUD secretary Julián Castro, in a statement. “Unfortunately, too many Americans find their dreams limited by where they come from, and a ZIP code should never determine a child’s future.  This important step will give local leaders the tools they need to provide all Americans with access to safe, affordable housing in communities that are rich with opportunity.”

HUD’s final rule responds to the recommendations of a 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report as well as stakeholders and HUD program participants who asked for clearer guidance, more technical assistance, better compliance, and more meaningful outcomes. 

The department has provided a summary of the rule. 

Key features of the final rule include:

· Clarifying existing fair housing obligations: Existing patterns of meeting affirmatively furthering fair housing obligations have been undermined by limited access to data about fair housing conditions and access to opportunity. The GAO report from 2010 also cited a lack of clarity, standards, and transparency for communities under the current process. HUD’s rule clarifies and standardizes this process;

· Publicly open data on fair housing and access to opportunity: HUD will provide publicly open data and mapping tools to aid community members and local leaders in setting local fair housing priorities and goals; and

· Collaboration is encouraged: Many fair housing priorities transcend a grantee’s boundaries. Actions to advance these priorities often involve coordination by multiple jurisdictions. The final rule encourages grantees to collaborate on fair housing assessments to advance regional fair housing priorities and goals.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law applauded the final rule, saying the regulation provides clear guidance to recipients of federal housing funds on their responsibility under this provision of the Fair Housing Act to promote residential integration.

“The new requirements set forth in the regulation provide more clarity as to what is required to comply with this important provision of the Fair Housing Act and promise reinvigorated emphasis on the primary goal of the Act,” said the Lawyers’ Committee.

The Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) also voiced support for the rule.

The rule requires all states, cities, counties, and towns that receive HUD funds to engage in a community dialogue and public planning process every five years, using HUD-supplied data, to assess the barriers to integrated housing, and the steps necessary to remove those barriers. Importantly, the rule also requires jurisdictions to assess the community resources available in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color to determine if public resources are being distributed fairly, according to PRRAC.

"This rule forces us to address the American paradigm of separate and unequal," said Philip Tegeler, PRRAC executive director, in a statement. "It asks cities and towns to confront the consequences of their past policies and decide how to move forward in a fair, inclusive, and democratic way." 

It has been a big three weeks for the Fair Housing Act. On June 25, the Supreme Court determined that actions with a discriminatory effect are unlawful under Fair Housing Act, regardless of intent.