HUD Posts New Sexual Harassment Training

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has posted several new items related to sexual harassment training. The main sexual harassment training page on HUD Exchange can be found here. Resources include fact sheets, videos, and a training module.

Additional webinar training can be found below:

Webinar Title Date Time Registration Link
Preventing Harassment for PHA Residents & Voucher Program Participants Now until July 29, 2019 3:00-4:00 PM EDT Register to View Webcast
Preventing and Addressing Sexual and Other Discriminatory Harassment in Housing (for Private Housing Owners and Managers Participating in Voucher Programs) Now until July 29, 2019 3:00-4:00 PM EDT Register to View Webcast
Preventing and Addressing Sexual and Other Discriminatory Harassment in Housing (for PHA Employees) Now until July 29, 2019 3:00-4:00 PM EDT Register to View Webcast

HUD Launches Campaign to Help Protect People from Harassment from Landlords, Property Managers, and Maintenance Workers

[The Call HUD: Because Sexual Harassment in Housing is Illegal poster]

Earlier today, HUD published a press release announcing a campaign “to help protect people from harassment by landlords, property managers, and maintenance workers in HUD-assisted housing.” The campaign–named “Call HUD: Because Sexual Harassment in Housing is Illegal”–will educate people on what activities constitute sexual harassment and who to contact if people experience it. The campaign will also offer sexual harassment training to PHAs and other housing providers.

HUD will introduce the “Call HUD” campaign at HUD headquarters on Thursday, April 4th from 2 pm to 4 pm at the Brooke-Mondale Auditorium.

Persons who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 or (800) 927-9275.

The complete press release may 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.

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 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.

Groups sue HUD over AFFH

Earlier today, three groups (the National Fair Housing Alliance [NFHA], the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, and Texas Appleseed) filed a complaint in Federal Court (the United States District Court for the District of Columbia) against HUD regarding its recent actions to extend the deadline for local governments to submit their Assessments of Fair Housing (AFHs).

The complaint states that HUD “published a three-page notice . . . suspending the key requirements of the [Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH)] rule” (HUD characterizes this action as an “Extension of Deadline for Submission of Assessment of Fair Housing for Consolidated Plan Participants“). The action caused “irreparable and ongoing injury” for the three groups suing. As a result of HUD’s action, Texas Appleseed and the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service will have to “divert [mission-critical] resources” to “remedying the effects of [HUD’s] actions.” Additionally, NFHA will have to “divert resources to assisting its members around the country . . . to combat the effects of [HUD’s] actions.”

The groups believe that HUD erred in three ways. First, “[b]y failing to engage in notice-and-comment rulemaking before delaying and altering the AFFH Rule, HUD failed to observe procedures required by law, in contravention of the [Administrative Procedure Act].” Second, “HUD’s delay of the Rule is arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion, in contravention of the [Administrative Procedure Act]” because HUD’s rationale for extending the deadline (inadequate technical assistance among other reasons) does not explain why HUD cannot improve its technical assistance or why it is acceptable to go back to the previous regulatory framework (i.e., the Analysis of Impediments). Third, “HUD’s effective suspension of the AFFH Rule violates the Fair Housing Act, in contravention of the [Administrative Procedure Act].” Here, the complaint states that HUD is violating its own “affirmative obligation under the Fair Housing Act to ensure that federal housing programs are administered, and federal housing funds spent, in a manner that furthers fair housing.”

The complaint asks that the Court do five things. First, enter a declaratory judgment that HUD’s action is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or contrary to law, and without observance of procedure required by law.” Second, issue preliminary and permanent injunctions requiring HUD to suspend its notice extending the deadline for submission of AFHs for local governments and implement and enforce the requirements of the AFFH rule moving forward. Third, direct HUD to take affirmative steps to remedy the harms caused by the extension. Fourth, award the groups attorney’s fees and costs. Fifth, award any other relief that may be “just and equitable.”

The full complaint can be found here.

HUD Publishes New AFFH FAQ

On Friday, HUD sent an email announcing a new list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that responds to the new notice delaying the submission date for the local government Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH). HUD “strongly encourages program participants to visit [the FAQ].” The new notice can be found on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) HUD Exchange webpage.

The FAQ can be found here.

HUD Extends AFH Deadline for Local Governments

Tomorrow, HUD will publish a notice in the Federal Register titled “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: Extension of Deadline for Submission of Assessment of Fair Housing for Consolidated Plan Participants.” The notice states that for local government consolidated plan participants, the deadline for submitting their Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) will be extended to the next AFH submission date after October 31, 2020. Although the notice will be effective immediately after publication in the Federal Register, HUD is inviting public comment for 60 days on the extension. [1/5/18 Edit – Comments are due by March 6, 2018.]

The notice extends the deadline for submission of an AFH to all local government consolidated plan program participants to the AFH submission deadline after October 31, 2020. Local governments that qualified for a previous extension under a October 24, 2016 notice are also covered under this extension. All local government program participants must still comply with the statutory obligation of affirmatively furthering fair housing.

Until a consolidated plan program participant is required to submit an AFH, it will continue to provide the AFFH Consolidated plan certification in accordance with requirements that existed prior to August 17, 2015. These requirements obligated a program participant to certify that it would affirmatively further fair housing by conducting an Analysis of Impediments (AI) to fair housing choice within the jurisdiction and take action to overcome the effects of the identified impediments.

For program participants starting a new 3 to 5 year consolidated plan cycle, the AI should continue to be updated until those consolidated plan program participants submit an AFH after October 31, 2020. Program participants that have already submitted an AFH which has been accepted by HUD must continue to execute the goals of that AFH (they are not required to perform an additional AI). Program participants that received a non-accept decision should not submit their revised AFHs. HUD will discontinue the review of AFHs currently under review and will not render an accept, deemed accepted, or non-accept determination.

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