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.

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