Advocates are urged to write a comment letter regarding HUD’s proposed Assessment Tool to be used by jurisdictions to complete an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) as part of their obligation to affirmatively further fair housing choice. Comments are due Tuesday, November 25.
Why comment the template? Because the Assessment Tool will be almost as important as the final affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) regulation, which is expected sometime in 2015. The Assessment Tool is the document that jurisdictions’ staff will use to develop the AFH, which will replace the Analysis of Impediments (AI) to fair housing choice. The Assessment Tool is the document that advocates will have in hand and it is the document with which residents will be most familiar. Therefore, ensuring that the Assessment Tool has balanced and complete guidance is critical.
NLIHC endorses the Assessment Tool in general and its intent to realize more robust actions that enable low income people in the Fair Housing Act’s “protected classes” to move to low-poverty areas where there are higher opportunities in the form of better schools, lower crime rates, and fewer environmental hazards. The protected classes covered by the Fair Housing Act are race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status.
However, the draft Assessment Tool only considers mobility to high opportunity areas. As drafted, the Assessment Tool could be interpreted to prohibit the use of federal housing and community development dollars to preserve affordable housing or to revitalize neighborhoods. NLIHC’s comments will urge HUD to introduce balance in the Assessment Tool, a balance that respects residents’ choice to preserve their homes and revitalize their neighborhoods.
The proposed Assessment Tool does not consider whether residents of public housing or HUD Section 8 Multifamily housing would prefer to have their homes rehabilitated and preserved so that they can continue to live in them. The proposed Assessment Tool does not take into account community-based development organizations’ work to revitalize disinvested neighborhoods, neighborhoods where people want to continue to live and where they have close social and cultural ties.
NLIHC thinks that the Assessment Tool needs additional language to ensure that low income people, especially people in the protected classes, have the full range of housing choices available to them. NLIHC suggests that questions be added to the Assessment Tool that take into account efforts to preserve public housing or HUD-assisted multifamily housing. If residents of public and assisted housing choose to remain in their homes, often in neighborhoods where they have social, cultural, and language networks, then AFFH should respect their choice. NLIHC also suggests that the Assessment Tool include questions that take into account community-based neighborhood revitalization efforts and consider such efforts as valuable community assets.
On September 26, HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) published the proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Assessment Tool (see Memo, 9/29). On July 19, 2013, HUD published the long-awaited proposed rule intended to improve jurisdictions’ and public housing agencies’ obligation to affirmatively further fair housing. Issuing the Assessment Tool is one more necessary step before a final AFFH rule can be published.
A sample comment letter is at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Sample_AFFH_Assessment_Tool_Comment_Letter_REV_111414.pdf.
NLIHC’s working draft comment letter is at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Working_Draft_NLIHC_Comments_AFFH_Assessment_112014.pdf.
NLIHC’s summary of the proposed Assessment Tool is at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Preliminary_Summary_Proposed_%20AFFH_Assessment_Tool.pdf
NLIHC’s Summary of the proposed AFFH rule is at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Summary_Proposed_AFFH_8-23-13.pdf
NLIHC’s AFFH webpage is at http://nlihc.org/issues/affh
General information about affirmatively furthering fair housing is on page 204 of NLIHC’s 2014 Advocates’ Guide, http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/2014AG-204.pdf
HUD’s webpage for the proposed AFFH rule and Assessment Tool is at http://www.huduser.org/portal/affht_pt.html