On July 16, HUD published a revised Assessment Tool (see Memo, 7/20) to be used to complete an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH), as required by HUD’s new affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) rule (see Memo, 7/13). Comments on the Assessment Tool are due August 17. NLIHC has identified preliminary concerns with the new tool, some echoing comments regarding the initial Assessment Tool (see Memo, 9/29/14, 11/17/14) and others pertaining specifically to the revised Assessment Tool.
The Assessment Tool is a series of questions intended to help CDBG entitlement jurisdictions, States, and public housing agencies (PHAs) perform a meaningful assessment of four “fair housing issues” and the “contributing factors.” The four fair housing issues are racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty, patterns of integration and segregation, disparities in access to opportunity, and disproportionate housing needs. They are defined in the AFFH rule and further described in the Assessment Tool. Contributing factors are also defined in the rule and elaborated on in the Assessment Tool, including 39 examples.
The Assessment Tool is central to the new AFFH rule process. It will be the working template and ultimate document that entitlement jurisdictions, States, PHAs, advocates, and residents will use frequently. It is crucial that the final Assessment Tool clearly articulate the balanced approach to AFFH and the public participation requirements spelled out in the final AFFH rule.
The proposed AFFH rule implied that federal funds could not be used to preserve affordable housing or to revitalize areas of racial or ethnic concentrations of poverty that had suffered disinvestment, but that were housing developments and neighborhoods where long-time residents wanted to continue living while benefitting from improvements. In the final AFFH rule, HUD clarified that a balanced approach to AFFH is required.
The initial Assessment Tool referred only to segregation, racial and ethnic concentrations of poverty, and disparities in access to certain community assets. This could be misconstrued to mean a prohibition on the use of resources in neighborhoods that have such concentrations, yet also have the assets of community-based development organizations and affordable housing preservation organizations that have long worked with residents to improve publicly supported housing or community living conditions. Unfortunately, the revised Assessment Tool does not echo the final AFFH rule’s clear articulation of a balanced approach
The revised Assessment Tool also does not fully reflect the public participation process provided for in the final AFFH rule. The rule requires entitlement jurisdictions, States, and PHAs to consult with a wide variety of organizations, including those that represent people who have characteristics of the Fair Housing Act’s “protected classes,” race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. The revised Assessment Tool does not require a listing of each organization consulted, nor does it require a listing of the organizations and individuals that submitted written comments or remarks delivered at public hearings. Consequently, it will not be possible to know whether the most appropriate entities were involved.
The AFFH rule requires entitlement jurisdictions, States, and PHAs to encourage participation by residents of public and assisted housing developments, minorities, non-English speaking persons, and people with disabilities. The revised Assessment Tool does not specifically ask what efforts were made in discussions with residents of publicly supported housing to determine residents’ desire to remain in their homes and neighborhoods, or to relocate to areas of opportunity.
The revised Assessment Tool requires entitlement jurisdictions, States, and PHAs to “include a description of efforts made to reach the public, including those representing populations that are typically underrepresented in the planning process such as persons who reside in areas identified as R/ECAPs [racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty], persons who are limited English proficient, and persons with disabilities.” The final Assessment Tool should require entitlement jurisdictions, States, and PHAs to report efforts made in discussions with residents of public and assisted housing and residents of R/ECAPs where community-based revitalization efforts exist or are planned, to determine their desire to remain in their communities or to relocate to areas of opportunity.
In addition to requiring entitlement jurisdictions, States, and PHAs to use HUD-provided data and maps, the AFFH rule requires them to use local data and knowledge. The rule also requires them to consider information provided during the required community participation and organization consultation processes. The revised Assessment Tool requires an analysis of each of the four fair housing issues using the HUD-provided maps and data tables, supplemented by an “Additional Information” subsection to compensate for the limitations of the HUD-provided data. In order to inject a more balanced consideration of fair housing issues, HUD should include directions in three of the “Additional Information” subsections to foster a more balanced consideration pertinent to the fair housing issue under consideration.
For example, in the “Segregation/Integration” and “R/ECAPs” sections, the Additional Information subsection should include local knowledge gathered indicating that residents value the communities in which they live and where they have deep social, community, cultural, or language ties – even if those communities are segregated or are racially or ethnically areas of concentrated poverty. For the “Disparities in Access to Opportunity” section, the Additional Information subsection should include local knowledge gathered indicating that assets exist not listed elsewhere in the Assessment Tool, such as responsive community-based organizations, community development corporations that have worked for years to help revitalize the neighborhood, active tenant organizations, and other important social network and cultural support infrastructures.
The revised Assessment Tool has a component that analyzes publicly supported housing, specifically identifying public housing, project-based Section 8, Housing Choice Vouchers, Low Income Housing Tax Credit-assisted housing, Section 202 housing for elderly people, and Section 811 housing for people with disabilities. In the subsection analyzing project locations, the Assessment Tool should foster a more balanced analysis. The final Assessment Tool should require entitlement jurisdictions, States, and PHAs to be sensitive to the wishes of existing residents of projects in segregated or R/ECAP areas, assessing whether existing residents prefer their developments to be improved and preserved, or prefer assistance in moving to areas of higher opportunity. In the subsection analyzing disparities in access to opportunity, the final Assessment Tool should require entitlement jurisdictions, States, and PHAs to also consider existing community assets such as responsive community-based organizations, community-based development corporations that have worked for years to revitalize the neighborhood, active tenant organizations, and other important social network and cultural support infrastructures.
The “Segregation/Integration” and “R/ECAPs” sections asks entitlement jurisdictions, States, and PHAs to discuss changing patterns of segregation/integration or changes of R/ECAPs to areas that no longer fit that description. The final Assessment Tool should be more specific, asking them to identify areas where residents are suffering from or are in danger of displacement due to gentrification.
The final part of the revised Assessment Tool requires an entitlement jurisdiction, State, and PHA to set priorities regarding each contributing factor it identified for each of the fair housing issues, and then to “set one or more goals” for each fair housing issue with significant contributing factors. Each goal must have metrics for measuring success over an identified timeframe. Unfortunately, the final AFFH rule does not require strategies and actions to implement the goals and priorities that the Assessment Tool has established for the Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH). The final rule merely calls for strategies and actions to implement the fair housing goals and priorities to be included in a Five-Year Consolidated Plan or Five-Year Public Housing Agency Plan. The instructions for the revised Assessment Tool mirror this problem. The final Assessment Tool should require entitlement jurisdictions, States, and PHAs to go one step further and propose actions that could be taken toward achieving each goal.
The entire AFH process leading up to the goals and priorities stage will have involved the entitlement jurisdictions, States, and PHAs, those they consulted, and the communities that participated in the development of the AFH. It is this set of participants who are most likely to have ideas about actions that should be taken to achieve the goals. A set of proposed actions embedded in the AFH will facilitate the strategic thinking of those who later will embark on the Consolidated Plan process or Public Housing Agency Plan process.
Most participants in the Consolidated Plan process have historically limited their thinking to utilizing the formula grant programs (CDBG, HOME, etc). Without recommended actions in the AFH, the Consolidated Plan participants would have to take an unfamiliar leap from the AFH goals and priorities to devise appropriate actions to write into the Consolidated Plan. A set of recommended actions in the AFH would much more firmly and realistically link the AFH to the Consolidated Plan.
The revised Assessment Tool notice is at http://www.huduser.org/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/
HUD published two versions of the Assessment Tool, and seeks public comment regarding the options. The formats do not differ in content; the difference is placement of the analysis of contributing factors.
Option A Assessment Tool is at http://www.huduser.org/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/AFFH_AssessmentTool_OptionA.pdf
Option B Assessment Tool is at http://www.huduser.org/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/AFFH_AssessmentTool_OptionB.pdf
NLIHC’s AFFH webpage, including a “Preliminary Overview of the Final AFFH Rule” is at http://nlihc.org/issues/affh
More information about the current AFFH process is on page 7-1 of NLIHC’s 2015 Advocates’ Guide, http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Sec7.01_AFFH_2015.pdf