U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge announced that her department has rescinded the previous administration’s rule entitled "Preserving Neighborhood and Community Choice," or PCNC, and restored certain definitions and other selected parts from 2015's Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule.
A little less than a year ago, then HUD head Benjamin Carson announced the termination of the act that HUD has now reinstated.
DS News reported at the time that many housing advocates disapproved of the previous leader's move. The National Association of Realtors, for example, expressed disappointment "that HUD has taken this step, which significantly weaken[ed] the federal government’s commitment to the goals of the Fair Housing Act." (NAR has not yet issued a statement about the more-recent reversal). Carson later discussed the action on Fox News.
HUD has published an interim final rule to restore the implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s AFFH requirement, providing what it calls a "robust definition of the duty to affirmatively further fair housing, to which many HUD grantees must certify compliance." The announcement continued via press release, "Additionally, HUD is committed to providing communities that receive HUD funding with the technical support they need to meet their long-standing fair housing obligations."
The Fair Housing Act not only bars discrimination, but also requires HUD and its funding recipients, such as local communities, to take affirmative steps to remedy fair housing issues such as racially segregated neighborhoods, lack of housing choice, and unequal access to housing-related opportunities, according to HUD.
To fulfill this requirement, in 2015, the department promulgated a rule that "compelled each covered funding recipient to undertake a defined fair housing planning process." Funding recipients were required to complete an assessment of fair housing issues, identify fair housing priorities and goals, and then commit to meaningful actions to meet those goals and remedy identified issues, with HUD reviewing each assessment.
The last administration suspended implementation of this rule and eliminated the 2015 rule’s procedural requirements, explained this week's press release. The move, according to HUD, redefined the regulatory AFFH requirement "so it was no longer consistent with the actual requirements of the Fair Housing Act."
Under the just-announced restored AFFH regulatory definition, municipalities and other HUD funding recipients that must regularly certify compliance with the Fair Housing Act’s AFFH requirement will, in doing so, commit to taking steps to remedy their unique fair housing issues, HUD explained.
To support compliance with AFFH, HUD will provide a voluntary process that funding recipients can choose to use to identify the fair housing concerns that exist locally and commit to specific steps to remedy them. HUD says it will provide technical assistance and support to funding recipients that carry out this voluntary fair housing planning process.
“More than 50 years since the Fair Housing Act’s passage, inequities in our communities remain that block families from moving into neighborhoods with greater opportunities,” Secretary Fudge said. “As a former mayor and member of Congress, I know firsthand the importance of giving localities the tools they need to ensure their communities have access to safe, affordable housing near quality schools, transportation, and jobs. Today, HUD is taking a critical step to affirm that a child’s future should never be limited by the ZIP code where they are born.”
HUD adds that the rule is consistent with President Biden’s January 26 memorandum, "Redressing Our Nation’s and the Federal Government’s History of Discriminatory Housing Practices and Policies," which directed HUD to examine the prior administration’s fair housing rules and take all steps necessary to implement the Fair Housing Act’s requirement that HUD administers its programs in a manner that furthers fair housing.
The interim final rule will go into effect on July 31, and HUD will take comments for 30 days after publication and may act on them prior to the effective date of the rule.