HUD Creates New Landlord Task Force

Earlier today, HUD published a press release announcing that it would create a new Landlord Task Force. The task force is being created as a response to two new studies which found that most landlords do not accept vouchers and, in those instances where landlords do accept vouchers, the landlords are dissatisfied with the administrative burdens associated with the vouchers. The Department will begin a landlord engagement campaign on September 20th in Washington DC, where it will present findings from the two studies. There will also be landlord forums in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Salem, Oregon. After receiving feedback from these forums, the task force will provide policy recommendations to the Secretary to increase landlord participation in the Housing Choice Voucher program.

The two studies which served as the impetus for the creation of the task force are titled “Pilot Study of Landlord Acceptance in the Housing Choice Voucher Program” and “Urban Landlords and the Housing Choice Voucher Program: A Research Report.” The former study will be released in a month and looked at five cities: Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Fort Worth, Newark, and Washington, D.C. It found that many landlords did not accept vouchers, especially in high opportunity areas. The latter study examined three areas: Baltimore, Cleveland, and Dallas. It found that while many landlords appreciated the reliable rent payments of the Housing Choice Voucher program, they were frustrated with inspections and how housing authorities handle tenant disputes.

A summary of Pilot Study of Landlord Acceptance in the Housing Choice Voucher Program can be found here. (The full study will be released next month.)

The Urban Landlords and the Housing Choice Voucher Program: A Research Report can be found here.

The Department’s press release on the new task force can be found here.

Federal Judge Dismisses AFFH Suit

In an opinion published on Friday, a federal judge dismissed a suit brought by several fair housing organizations. The fair housing groups wanted HUD to reinstate the local government assessment tool as part of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) process. The court found that the groups did not meet the requirements to sue and that even if they did, HUD should not be required to reinstate the local government tool.

After providing background information and describing the relevant law, the opinion discussed three issues. First, whether the fair housing groups had standing (i.e., met the legal requirements to sue); second, whether the fair housing groups were entitled to a preliminary injunction reinstating the assessment tool for local governments; and third, whether New York State could join the suit. The court found that the fair groups lacked standing (i.e., did not meet the legal requirements to bring suit); that even if they had standing, they were not entitled to a preliminary injunction ordering that the local government tool be reinstated; and that New York State could not join the suit.

Fair Housing Groups Lack Standing

The court found that the fair housing groups lacked standing and could not bring a suit. Although the court found multiple reasons why the fair housing groups lacked standing, the court focused most of its analysis on how there was a lack of injury to the fair housing groups by the withdrawal of the local government tool. The court found that the withdrawal of the local government tool did not impair the mission of the fair housing groups because many aspects of the AFFH rule remain in place, including the new community participation requirements, which give the fair housing groups continuing opportunities to participate in a more robust Analysis of Impediments (AI) process. The court also found that withdrawal of the local government tool did not cause a drain of the fair housing groups’ resources because they are engaged in the same types of activities that they were undertaking before the withdrawal of the local government tool and because withdrawal of the tool does not require that the groups spend more on operational costs. Finally, the court also found that the fair housing groups lacked the other elements of standing–causation and redressability.

Fair Housing Groups Not Entitled to a Preliminary Injunction

The court found that even if the fair housing groups had standing, they were not entitled to a preliminary injunction. Again, although there were several reasons why they were not entitled to a preliminary injunction, the court focused its analysis on showing why the fair housing groups were unlikely to succeed on the merits of the case. First, the court noted that withdrawal of the local government tool did not require notice-and-comment procedures (these are the procedures used in the informal rulemaking process when an agency is creating a regulation) because the local government tool is properly characterized as an “information collection” and not subject to notice-and-comment procedures. Second, the court found that the withdrawal of the tool was not arbitrary or capricious because HUD provided adequate reasoning for its decision to withdraw the local government tool (HUD noted the high failure rate of program participants to submit acceptable first-time submissions and the high costs of scaling up technical assistance for future submissions). The court also did not find the other factors needed for a preliminary injunction including a risk of irreparable harm, a balance of equities in favor of the fair housing groups, or an accord with the public interest.

New York State May Not Join the Suit

The court found that New York State may not join the suit because, like the fair housing groups, it lacked standing because of a lack of injury.

The full opinion can be found here.

HUD Files Complaint Against Facebook

On Friday, HUD published a press release announcing that it was filing a housing discrimination complaint against the social networking site Facebook. The Department claims that Facebook has a series of options which allow advertisers to control which groups can see their advertisements. By allowing advertisers to restrict certain groups–defined by protected characteristics–from viewing advertised housing, HUD believes that Facebook is discriminating.

For example, advertisers may restrict the viewing pool of users based on protected characteristics like race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. Facebook mines data on its users and classifies its users based on protected characteristics. Advertisers may then choose to restrict which groups see their advertisements based on those groups’ interests. The Department found that Facebook allows the following:

  • Advertisers to discriminate based on sex by showing ads only to men or women;
  • Advertisers to discriminate based on disability by not showing ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in things like assistance dogs or mobility scooters;
  • Advertisers to discriminate based on familial status by not showing ads to users whom Facebook categorizes as interested in things like child care or parenting;
  • Advertisers to discriminate based on national origin by not showing ads to users whom are interested in certain countries or geographical regions like Latin America or China; and
  • Advertisers to discriminate based on race or color by allowing advertisers to advertise to certain zip codes.

The Department’s press release can be found here.

The Department’s complaint can be found here.