NLIHC signed on to a letter drafted by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) that comments on HUD’s proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule. The letter, which commends HUD for advancing the proposed AFFH rule and making significant improvements to the 2015 AFFH rule, states that the rule “is a critical tool for creating more equitable and inclusive communities in which all residents, including women and LGBGTQI+ people, have access to the resources and opportunities they need to live with dignity and to flourish.” The letter observes that “to ensure fair housing choice for women, pregnant people, families, survivors, and LGBTQI+ people, communities must also proactively address structural inequities and community needs.”
The NWLC comment letter describes eight improvements in the proposed AFFH rule that should be preserved in the final AFFH rule. However, the letter also states that HUD should make several changes to improve the effectiveness of the final rule, including the following:
- The proposed rule defines “protected characteristics” (reflecting the Fair Housing Act’s “protected classes”) as referring to race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, and nonconformance with gender stereotypes), familial status, national origin, and having a disability, specifying the meaning of the word “sex” to include the content in parenthesis. NWLC supports this specification but recommends further refinement by adding the words “sex characteristics” and “pregnancy.” The addition of “sex characteristics” would be consistent with Executive Order 14075. Regarding “pregnancy,” HUD has long recognized that pregnancy discrimination in housing occurs and may constitute both sex discrimination and familial status discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.
- HUD should include more details in the final rule about the identity of those with whom program participants should engage as part of formal community engagement provisions. (Program participants are state and local governments, which must have a Consolidated Plan, and public housing agencies (PHAs), which must have a PHA Plan. The letter suggests including people who are or have been directly impacted by fair housing issues, as well as community-based groups who serve as trusted advisors to various segments of the community, fair housing and tenant rights groups representing members of protected classes, and organizations that provide housing, health, child and adult dependent care services, social services, services for survivors of gender-based violence, and other services to members of protected classes.
- The final rule and accompanying guidance should make it clear that community engagement may take many different forms, ranging from formal public hearings to smaller, more focused discussions with targeted groups, virtual meetings that are accessible and allow stakeholders to participate from their homes, and surveys or other means of collecting feedback on particular issues.
- It is critical for program participants to visit people directly and not rely on attendance by impacted people at community meetings. In addition, some stakeholders, such as LGBTQI+ people, survivors of gender-based violence, immigrants, and people with limited English proficiency, may need a safe space for sharing views that they may not be comfortable sharing in large public settings.
- The final rule should provide greater clarity about when and how often program participants should engage with the community.
- The final rule should specify that community stakeholders should be involved in setting priorities.
- HUD should require program participants to post on their own websites their draft and final Equity Plans and their annual progress evaluations.
Read the NWLC comment letter at: https://bit.ly/43I3xYK
Find HUD’s easy-to-read preview version of the proposed AFFH rule at: https://bit.ly/3wWsRLH
Find the Federal Register version of the proposed AFFH rule at: https://bit.ly/3RIYfa1