On January 4, HUD announced that Marin County, California had signed a Voluntary Compliance Agreement (VCA) with HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) to improve its fair housing practices.
During a civil rights compliance review of the CDBG program in the summer of 2009, FHEO found that Marin County was in “preliminary non-compliance” with numerous fair housing issues. Under the VCA, the county agreed to take specific actions regarding six “issues of non-compliance,” as well as six “concerns.”
Unlike the recent case in Westchester, New York (see Memo, 1/7), legal action did not precipitate this development, another indication that HUD is giving greater scrutiny and heightened enforcement to affirmatively furthering fair housing.
Affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) was one key non-compliance issue. According to the VCA, Marin County has agreed to complete an Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI), using HUD’s Fair Housing Planning Guide as a reference, within 150 days. The AI must include participation by racial and ethnic minorities and persons with disabilities throughout the planning process; identify and analyze impediments to fair housing based on race and ethnicity, as well as municipal resistance to affordable housing development; commit to actions to address impediments and other implementation features of the VCA; and use the AI in its 2010-2014 consolidated plan.
The VCA lists eight steps, some having sub-steps, that Marin County must undertake as part of its obligation to AFFH.
1. Solicit input from community leaders and public interest groups during the CDBG planning cycle.
2. Educate realtors and landlords.
3. Provide information to the public about rental and homeowner housing programs.
4. Assess whether a pattern exists from the past ten years or more of CDBG and HOME housing development that perpetuates segregation; if so, take action to promote, overcome barriers to, and cause the development of affordable housing outside areas of minority concentration.
5. Determine under-representation in affordable housing among racial and ethnic groups and/or people with disabilities; if so, promote interest in living in Marin County among underrepresented groups that reside in or commute from adjacent counties.
6. Give priority for future use of CDBG and HOME funds to affordable housing and community service activities that address impediments to AFFH.
For the next five years, Marin County will report annually on its actions to promote, overcome barriers to, and cause the development of affordable housing in non-racially/ethnically-impacted areas. It also agreed to update its AI in conjunction with the 5-year consolidated plan cycle.
In addition to non-compliance, the VCA requires Marin County to take the following steps:
· Create an outreach plan that invites residents to all public meetings held during each phase of the CDBG planning process, and particularly encourage participation by disabled residents, racial and ethnic minorities and single-parent households. For the groups, the plan must identify those least likely to participate and indicate the types of media and community organizations used to facilitate their involvement. The county must report annually for five years, indicate attendance at public planning meetings, and break down participation by race, ethnicity and disability.
· Conduct a survey of the needs of people with limited English proficiency and develop a language assistance plan.
· Develop a policy for CDBG-supported activities to ensure that all written materials contain contact information and a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) number.
· Certify that all facilities associated with CDBG administration during the public participation process, as well as the review of CDBG-related materials, are fully accessible to people with disabilities to the maximum extent feasible.
“This agreement increases Marin’s accountability to its residents and to HUD to carry out it Fair Housing obligations and document that its programs serve everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity or disability, said John Trasviña, HUD assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity.
To read HUD media release, go to: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2011/HUDNo.11-002
The Fair Housing Planning Guide is at: http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/images/fhpg.pdf