Secretary Carson to Lead Opportunity and Revitalization Council

In a press release published earlier today, HUD announced that the President established the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council and named Secretary Carson its chairperson. The White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council’s activities include the following:

  • Engage all levels of government on methods to effectively use taxpayer dollars to revitalize low-income communities;
  • Streamline, coordinate, and target existing Federal programs to Opportunity Zones and distressed communities;
  • Consider legislative proposals and undertake regulatory reform to remove barriers to revitalization; and
  • Present the President with options to encourage capital investment in economically distressed communities.

Secretary Carson has said that “[t]hese are still early days for the work of the Council and Opportunity Zones, but the groundwork has been laid . . . [t]he seeds the President has planted are growing and the promise they hold will improve places long forgotten, and the lives of those who call those places home.”

The full press release can be found here.

NAHRO Submits Comments on AFFH Rule Streamlining

Earlier this week, NAHRO responded to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s or the Department’s) request for comments on streamlining the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule by submitting a comment letter. The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials remains committed to following through on the promise of the Fair Housing Act and its duty to affirmatively further fair housing. At the same time, NAHRO believes that to create a workable rule that delivers results while appropriately balancing the goals of the Fair Housing Act with the limited resources found in communities throughout the United States, certain principles should be followed in refining the AFFH rule.

These general principles are as follows:

  • Entities should not be forced to complete analyses on non-housing factors;
  • Entities should not be forced to complete analyses outside their jurisdiction;
  • Additional funding is required to properly conduct fair housing assessments;
  • Housing agencies should be able to complete any required assessments without having to hire a consultant;
  • The Department should accept and approve assessments for entities that have made a good faith effort to comply with the assessment process;
  • The Department should provide clear, regularly updated guidance for completing assessments;
  • The assessments should provide a greater emphasis on place-based solutions; and
  • The Department should closely follow all requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and any other process requirements required by law.

The comment letter–after providing background on how HUD substantially deviated from modest recommendations of prior technocratic reports by HUD and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2009 and 2010 respectively–responds to specific inquiries requested by HUD. The comment letter also recommends changes to the definition of “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” and “Qualified PHA.”

The full comment letter can be found here.

Fair Housing Webinar – Tuesday, 9/11/2018

Housing Rules e-Briefing Series

 Fair Housing Discussion –

An AFFH Update & Commenting to HUD

September 11, 2018

1:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. ET

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There have been a lot of new developments surrounding Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) in recent weeks. Join the NAHRO Policy Team as they discuss the lawsuit against HUD concerning the AFFH Tools and HUD’s decision to reopen the AFFH rule. HUD is also seeking input from the public and stakeholders on what the new, updated AFFH rules should contain and address. NAHRO encourages all members to share their first-hand knowledge and experience in affirmatively furthering fair housing. The NAHRO Policy Team will also provide an overview of how to prepare an effective and persuasive comment letter to HUD.

$95 Members / $195 Nonmembers

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e-Briefings are different from our online courses in that not every person watching must be registered.

We require only one registration per device.

Registration closes at 11:59pm eastern time Monday, September 10, 2018.

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.

HUD to Reopen AFFH Rule

Earlier today, HUD published a press release announcing that it published a notice inviting public comment on amendments to its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation.

[8/16/18 Edit – the notice has been published in the Federal Register. It can be found here. The comment due date is October 15, 2018.]

The Department wishes to receive comments on amending the rule so that it does the following:

  1. minimizes regulatory burden while more effectively aiding program participants to meet their statutory obligations;
  2. creates a process focused primarily on accomplishing positive results, rather than on analysis;
  3. provides for greater local control and innovation;
  4. seeks to encourage actions that increase housing choice, including through greater housing supply; and
  5. more efficiently utilizes HUD resources.

Currently, HUD has suspended the obligation of local governments to file Assessments of Fair Housing (AFHs) using the local government tool. The Department believed that the tool was “confusing, difficult to use, contained errors, and frequently produced unacceptable assessments, and otherwise required an unsustainable level of technical assistance.” There is currently a lawsuit brought by three civil rights groups filed against HUD on its action suspending requirements of the rule.

NAHRO will provide additional information to our members as we continue to read through the notice and as additional information becomes available.

The Department’s press release can be found here.

A pre-publication copy of the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking can be found here.

[8/16/18 Edit – the published copy can be found here.]

HUD to Withdraw AFFH Local Government Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) Tool

Moments ago, in an email from HUD Exchange, HUD announced that it plans to withdraw the assessment tool for local governments. According to HUD, “the current iteration of the Tools is substantively deficient and unduly burdensome because it resulted in great expense to program participants and HUD, yet it is not adequately guiding participants through the creation of acceptable Assessments of Fair Housing (AFHs).” Local governments must still comply with their obligation to affirmatively further fair housing.

HUD has posted pre-publication copies of three notices:

  1. Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: Withdrawal of the Assessment Tool for Local Governments – This notice withdraws the current local government assessment tool because it is “substantively deficient and unduly burdensome”;
  2. Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: Withdrawal of Notice Extending the Deadline for Submission of Assessment of Fair Housing for Consolidated Plan Participants – This notice withdraws the previous notice (published on Jan. 5, 2018; 83 Federal Register 683) which extended the submission deadline for AFHs; and
  3. Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH): Responsibility to Conduct Analysis of Impediments – This notice notes that local governments still have an obligation to affirmatively further fair housing and must conduct an Analysis of Impediments (AI).

The email notes that applicable program participants should update their AIs in accordance with the HUD Fair Housing Guide.

NAHRO will keep our members informed as we learn additional details.

HUD Publishes Study on Racial and Ethnic Differences in Housing Search

Yesterday, HUD published a study titled “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Housing Search: Final Report.” The study seeks to answer four research questions:

  1. How do people search for rental housing?
  2. How do housing searches differ by race and ethnicity?
  3. What are the consequences of these differences for relative housing outcomes?
  4. What are the implications for future research?

To answer these questions, the study used a mixed-method approach. Researchers fielded telephone interviews with a sample of 135 recent movers and 351 current searchers in the Washington, D.C. area. A subsample of 40 respondents were given a face-to-face interview. Finally, researchers also utilized three large datasets–the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), the America Housing Survey (AHS), and the Chicago Area Study (CAS)–to provide “statistically rigorous tests of racial or ethnic differences on a limited set of variables.”

While all the findings of the study are outside the scope of this short blog post, here are a few of the findings:

  • When asked about barriers while searching for housing, renters stated poor credit history, lack of a security deposit, and not having transportation to get to a units;
  • Most searchers said that both a unit and its neighborhood were equally important;
  • Renters use their social networks to find vacancies and learn about them;
  • Searchers tend to prioritize building security, landlord responsiveness, and rent; Safety and transportation are top criteria for neighborhoods;
  • Price range was a primary reason for the difficulty of a search;
  • Use of social networks is the most common information gathering method used by Black and Latino renters, and Black and Latino renters are more likely than White renters to use this method;
  • White renters are less likely to have a failed search than are Black and Latino renters;
  • Black renters report longer searches than White and Latino renters;
  • People who move for school or work are more likely to use online resources; and
  • Involuntary movers are more likely to end a search with less favorable outcomes because of constrained alternatives.

There is much more in the full report, which NAHRO staff has only begun to read.

The full study can be found here.

CBPP and PRRAC Publish Small Area FMR Implementation Guide

Recently, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council published a Small Area Fair Market Rent (FMR) implementation guide titled “A Guide to Small Area Fair Market Rents (SAFMRs): How State and Local Housing Agencies Can Expand Opportunity for Families in All Metro Areas.” The guide provides background on Small Area FMRs–which are FMRs that are calculated over zip codes instead of broader metropolitan areas to incentivize the deconcentration of poverty in metropolitan areas–as well as advice to PHAs on how to effectively implement them.

For those PHAs that are already familiar with HUD’s Guidance on Small Area FMRs and HUD’s Implementing Small Area FMRs Guidebook, there are still some new ideas in this guide. For example, this guidebook notes that to protect families in low-rent zip codes, which will see a decline in FMR, a PHA may apply a portion of the reduction and then hold families harmless  after the initial reduction. A footnote helpfully explains that though this option is “not mentioned in HUD’s notice or guidebook . . . [it] is permitted by the applicable regulation. 24 C.F.R. § 982.505(c)(3)(ii) [Hyperlink added].”

The CBPP and PRRAC Small Area FMR Implementation Guide can be found here.