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). Comments are due by November 25. NLIHC urges advocates to submit comments supporting the Assessment Tool, but with improvements.
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 (AFFH). The proposed rule indicated that HUD would issue an Assessment Tool to be used by program participants to evaluate fair housing choice, identify barriers to fair housing choice, and set and prioritize fair housing goals to overcome those barriers. Issuing the Assessment Tool is one more necessary step before a final AFFH rule can be published.
NLIHC supports the proposed Assessment Tool because it will provide clear guidance to jurisdictions, as well as to residents and advocates. NLIHC endorses all efforts to improve the ability of low income people, particularly members of the protected classes, to move to high opportunity areas. The protected classes covered by the Fair Housing Act are race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status.
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. The proposed Assessment Tool has no questions that guide a jurisdiction to determine whether residents of affordable housing would prefer to rehabilitate and preserve their buildings and remain in the neighborhoods in which they are currently living. 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 should include questions that take into account community-based neighborhood revitalization efforts and consider such efforts as valuable community assets.
NLIHC’s comments will urge HUD to introduce balance in the Assessment Tool, a balance that will respect residents’ choice to preserve their homes and revitalize their neighborhoods. Without better balance in the Assessment Tool, there is a danger that federal funds could not be used to preserve homes and to revitalize neighborhoods in which members of protected classes wish to remain.
HUD specifically requests comments regarding community participation in drafting the AFFH Assessment Tool. Advocates are urged to contribute ideas to ensure timely, genuine, and robust community participation. NLIHC’s working draft set of comments offers a number of detailed community participation suggestions.
In addition, to help introduce balance that values residents’ choice to remain in preserved housing and revitalized neighborhoods, NLIHC’s working draft set of comments inserts suggested language in many of the proposed Assessment Tool’s questions.
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://bit.ly/1uRAJs4
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