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HUD’s Imminent Restoration of Fair Housing Rule Is a Victory for Civil Rights

Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Aracely Panameño

WASHINGTON, DC – Provisions of the Fair Housing Act which fight our nation’s legacy of government-sponsored residential segregation and discrimination could again be enforced if a proposed federal rule is adopted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to a letter released by fair housing groups. The letter supports restoration of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule which is essential to fostering inclusive housing in communities, and was submitted by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Responsible Lending, and other partner housing organizations. The AFFH rule that was issued in 2015 increases local accountability with federal affordable housing funds.

The Trump administration suspended and later repealed the rule in 2018 and 2020, respectively. The Biden administration is fighting for fair housing and reimplementation of the rule.

“Where we live shapes almost every aspect of our lives,” said Thomas Silverstein, associate director with the Fair Housing and Community Development Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The AFFH mandate is critical to our efforts to create an equitable society where all people are able to choose where to live free from discrimination and where communities are empowered to provide their residents with access to the resources and opportunities needed to thrive.”

American communities remain deeply segregated, a pattern that is rooted in decades of governmental as well as private discrimination. Segregation and discrimination continue to shape our housing markets, leaving many people of color, and Black households in particular, in areas of concentrated poverty and unable to exercise broader choice.

“The interim final AFFH rule put out by the Biden Administration is an important first step in reversing the previous administration’s evisceration of one of the most important tools we have to tackle housing segregation and systemic discrimination. We applaud HUD for moving to restore a meaningful AFFH requirement and urge HUD to strengthen this rule so it will have maximum impact, as recommended in our letter,” said Debby Goldberg, Vice President of Housing Policy and Special Projects at the National Fair Housing Alliance. “We look forward to working with HUD to ensure that its next round of AFFH rulemaking builds upon the 2015 rule and gives our communities the tools they need to eliminate existing and emerging barriers to fair housing and become places of opportunity for all.”

“HUD has restored an AFFH definition that reflects both the law and the facts around persisting structural discrimination in housing and related areas of life,” said NAACP Legal Defense Fund senior policy counsel Megan Haberle. “This rulemaking marks a positive step for the federal government’s advancement of civil rights. The next steps are just as critical: that HUD engage in strong enforcement measures, create a system of accountability, and advance real change for the benefit of our communities.”

“We welcome HUD’s interim rule as an essential step towards fully achieving the goals of the Fair Housing Act,” said Peter Kye, Policy Counsel at the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC). “The AFFH requirement is vital to overcoming the ongoing effects of housing segregation and building a more inclusive country. Now HUD must ensure that communities will have the guidance and tools needed to help them take proactive and meaningful action to address the human cost of systemic racism and improve access to opportunity.”

"HUD’s interim final rule is a crucial step to reinstate portions of the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule," said Aracely Panameño, Director of Latino Affairs at the Center for Responsible Lending. "Where one lives matters, determining access to affordable housing, high-performing schools, work opportunities, affordable transportation, healthy food, a clean environment, and more. AFFH is essential to help dismantle segregation and ensure that all neighborhoods can be places of opportunity. We look forward to working with HUD to ensure that the AFFH mandate is further implemented robustly and meaningfully."

This complex problem must be addressed through a “both/and” approach that eliminates exclusionary barriers preventing people of color from moving to higher opportunity areas, while reinvesting in low-income communities of color to ensure that residents have access to opportunity where they live now.

Read the letter here.

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Press Contact: matthew.kravitz@responsiblelending.org