On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published proposed updates to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule. Originally a provision of the 1968 federal Fair Housing Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, the AFFH requires that "all executive departments and agencies shall administer their programs and activities relating to housing and urban development (including any Federal agency having regulatory or supervisory authority over financial institutions) in a manner affirmatively to further the purposes of" the Fair Housing Act.
HUD's Tuesday announcement stated that the latest updates to the rule could offer guidance to states and local governments working to improve affordable housing choices.
"HUD's commitment to Fair Housing remains as steadfast as ever before, and this improved rule reaffirms our mission of giving people more affordable housing options in communities across the country," said HUD Secretary Dr. Benjamin Carson. "By fixing the old Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, localities now have the flexibility to devise housing plans that fit their unique needs and provide families with more housing choices within their reach."
The Department published its final AFFH rule on July 16, 2015, and the purpose of that regulation was to provide HUD program participants with a revised planning approach to assist them in meeting their legal obligation to fund fair housing.
Since 2015, HUD found the AFFH rule proved “ineffective, highly prescriptive, and effectively discouraged” the production of affordable housing.
In January 2018, HUD suspended the obligation of local governments to file plans under the regulation. Additionally, HUD withdrew a computer assessment tool in May 2018 required to be used by local governments in preparing those plans.
The release states that HUD found that rather than assisting local governments in formulating “acceptable fair housing assessments,” the “Local Government Assessment Tool” was confusing, difficult to use, contained errors, and frequently produced unacceptable assessments.
Litigation challenging the suspension of the Government Assessment Tool HUD's was dismissed.
The Washington Post reports some fair housing advocates say the proposal reduces the financial pressure on local governments to end residential segregation, as required by the 1968 Fair Housing.
“The proposed rule entirely ignores the essential racial desegregation obligations of fair housing law,” said Diane Yentel, President of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
According to The Washington Post, Carson has characterized those steps as “overly burdensome” and “too prescriptive,” saying that transforming segregated living patterns and poor neighborhoods into areas of opportunity is often not within a community’s control