Action Alert

Strong Rule To Address Discriminatory Housing Policies In Public And Private Housing

July 28, 2015


On July 16, 2013, the then-Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Shaun Donovan, announced at the NAACP Convention in Orlando, FL., that his Administration was proposing a long-awaited “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” rule.  On July 12, 2015, the current HUD Secretary, Julían Castro, announced that the rule had been finalized and as a result “every child, no matter which side of the tracks they’re born on or who their parents are, has a fair shot to go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them.”  President Obama further promoted the new rule when he spoke to the NAACP convention on July 14, 2015.

The “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH)” rule comes from the on-going promulgation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.  The mandate, or goal, of AFFH is to undo discriminatory housing policies, both governmental and private policies, and to remedy the harm they caused.  The new rule clarifies this existing mandate and provides a robust toolkit for jurisdictions to use to identify and address barriers to fair housing in their communities.  The AFFH rule provides a framework that will help decision-makers plan for using their housing and community development resources in a way that ensures fairness and equity for all. AFFH comes from a realization by Congress, when it passed the Fair Housing Act, that some government policies, along with private practices, had locked many people of color into poor, racially isolated communities. To overcome this enduring legacy of government-sponsored segregation, the Fair Housing Act included a requirement that HUD, as well as state and local governments, must administer their programs and activities in a way that expands, and does not restrict, access to opportunity for all.

Where you live determines a lot about how you live: the schools your children attend, the jobs you have access to, the quality and reliability of the transportation system you rely on, the quality of your physical environment, your access to grocery stores and other businesses, the level of violent crime in your community, and a host of other factors. Where you live has a big impact on how your life unfolds, and that varies tremendously by neighborhood. The 1968 Fair Housing Act helps ensure that all people – regardless of race, ethnicity, family status or disability – have a range of choices about where to live, and that all neighborhoods are good places to live, regardless of the demographics of their residents.

Almost 50 years after the enactment of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, it is sad but true that zip code matters more than genetic code in determining life expectancy.  The AFFH rule is another tool in the arsenal of the federal government, as well as local and state jurisdictions, to combat growing inequalities.  Finalizing this rule is an important step in expanding opportunity for all, and making sure that no government or private policies encourage segregation.

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