NLIHC submitted comments regarding HUD’s proposed Assessment Tool to be used by states to create an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) to comply with the new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule (see Memo, 3/14).
The Federal Register notice publishing the draft state Assessment Tool describes it as a series of questions designed to help states identify “fair housing issues,” defined as areas with racially and ethnically concentrated poverty, patterns of segregation, disparities in access to opportunity, and disproportionate housing needs. The AFFH rule and Assessment Tool further describe fair housing issues and their “contributing factors.” The Assessment Tool is meant to enable states to meaningfully assess fair housing issues and contributing factors and to set fair housing goals and priorities.
NLIHC recommends that the Assessment Tool’s instructions and questions require states to conduct the fair housing analysis by sub-state areas because a host of factors may have resulted in vastly different fair housing contributing factors from area to area within a state. NLIHC also urges HUD to reinforce in the instructions and questions that the AFH applies to the entire state, not just the non-entitlement areas that do not automatically receive CDBG and HOME funds.
The proposed Assessment Tool has a section focused on the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. States are asked to identify provisions of their Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) or other state or local laws or policies that might influence the location of LIHTC units. NLIHC welcomes the added attention to the LIHTC program and recommends that the Assessment Tool’s instructions and questions:
- Require the states to seek additional data from their state housing finance agencies (HFAs) because not all HFAs consistently report their data to HUD as required by law. At a minimum, states should obtain data about the demographics of people occupying LIHTC-assisted units.
- Require the AFH to distinguish between 9% new construction tax credits and 4% rehabilitation tax credits because the two types lead to different outcomes. For example, 4% rehabilitation LIHTC projects generally preserve existing affordable housing, an outcome welcomed by low income residents living in those properties. The 9% new construction LIHTC projects could be beneficial by helping to revitalize a disinvested neighborhood, by helping to minimize the effects of gentrification, or by locating affordable housing in areas of opportunity. The 9% projects could be harmful, however, if they unduly concentrate LIHTC projects in areas of concentrated racial or ethnic poverty.
- Add a question requiring the states to describe the extent to which it is ensuring that LIHTC-assisted properties are complying with the protections provided under the “Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.”
NLIHC supports adding questions regarding five topics offered by HUD when discussing disparities in access to opportunity. In particular, regarding people re-entering the community from the criminal justice system, the Assessment Tool should ask about existing laws, policies, and practices that help or hinder successful re-entry of members of protected classes to housing, employment, education, counseling, or other opportunities. Regarding public safety, NLIHC urges that the Assessment Tool address access to housing and services for women and children encountering or threatened with domestic violence.
As with the local government Assessment Tool, NLIHC offers a number of recommendations to achieve a more balanced analysis and assessment of fair housing. The draft Assessment Tool understandably highlights racial and ethnic concentrations of poverty and disparities in access to community assets. Discussing only these fair housing issues, however, could be misconstrued as a prohibition on the use of resources in communities that have concentrations of poverty and disparities in access to assets but have assets not mentioned in the Assessment Tool. NLIHC notes that the final AFFH rule encourages a more balanced approach.
The proposed state Assessment Tool was published in the Federal Register on March 11 and is open to comment for 60 days from that date. After considering public comments, HUD will publish another proposed state Assessment Tool open for an additional 30-day comment period, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act. A final Assessment Tool to be used by local governments was published on December 31, 2015 (see Memo 1/11) and a proposed Assessment Tool to be used by public housing agencies was published on March 23 (see Memo, 3/28).
States do not have to submit an AFH until they are required to have a new 5-Year ConPlan on or after January 1, 2018. Until then states are required to use the current Analysis of Impediments process.
NLIHC’s comment letter is at http://bit.ly/1T8OM5i
HUD’s AFFH webpage is at https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/affh