NLIHC submitted comments regarding HUD’s revised Assessment Tool (see Memo, 7/20). The purpose of the Assessment Tool is to help Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement jurisdictions, States, and public housing agencies (PHAs) complete an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH), as required by HUD’s new affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) rule (see Memo, 7/13). As reported last week (see Memo, 8/10) NLIHC had concerns about the revised Assessment Tool. NLIHC enthusiastically endorsed the final affirmatively furthering fair housing rule, and pledges to help realize successful implementation in the coming years.
NLIHC’s comment letter offered qualified endorsement of the revised Assessment Tool. In particular, NLIHC is concerned about the revised Assessment Tool’s lack of attention to an important aspect of affirmatively furthering fair housing choice – the choice of long-time residents, and especially residents who are members of protected classes, to remain in their publicly supported affordable homes and in the communities where they have social, cultural, and language ties, even if those communities are racially or ethnically segregated.
In short, the final Assessment Tool should be improved in five general areas:
- The Community Participation Process section needs to be augmented in a way that provides more guidance to entitlement jurisdictions, States, and PHAs and that affords community stakeholders a means to assess the thoroughness of its entitlement jurisdiction, State, or PHA’s effort to provide for and encourage public participation.
- The final Assessment Tool must provide guidance reflecting the final AFFH rule’s clear articulation that the obligation to affirmatively further fair housing means preserving affordable housing and/or revitalizing areas of racial or ethnic concentrations of poverty, as well as enhancing access to opportunity.
- The section assessing mobility policies and practices that was in the initial Assessment Tool should be restored and modified to address the suggestions NLIHC made in our comment letter dated November 25, 2014 regarding the initial Assessment Tool.
- The requirement that entitlement jurisdictions, States, and PHAs assign one of three levels of significance to HUD’s list of factors contributing to the four fair housing issues that was in the initial Assessment Tool should be restored.
- The final Assessment Tool should require entitlement jurisdictions, States, and PHAs to propose actions that could be taken toward achieving each fair housing goal that they establish. A set of proposed actions embedded in the Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) will facilitate the strategic thinking of those who later will embark on the Consolidated Plan process or Public Housing Agency Plan process. A set of recommended actions in the AFH would more firmly and realistically link the AFH to the Consolidated Plan.
NLIHC wrote that the Assessment Tool should contain as much detail as possible because it will be the working template and ultimate document that entitlement jurisdictions, States, PHAs, advocates, and residents will be working with on a frequent, operational basis. The final rule and any additional guidance HUD provides are important to realize the goal of affirmatively furthering fair housing choice, but on a day-to-day working basis, these documents will eventually be less prominent than the Assessment Tool itself. An Assessment Tool with detailed guidance providing direction echoing the final rule will minimize the need for stakeholders to toggle between the final rule, any subsequent guidance and the Assessment Tool. In short, the Assessment Tool is as important as the final rule.
NLIHC’s comment letter is at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/NLIHC_Comments_AFFH_AssessmentTool_Aug2015.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