Affordable Housing, Integration, and Fair Housing Planning

Today’s guest blog comes from the Inclusive Communities Consortium, a valued sponsor of our Winter 2023 Meeting. This past January, ICC’s Rob Breymaier joined us in DC to share how his organization supports cities and their leaders to use data-informed policy to improve housing integration in support of affordable housing, racial equity, and community reinvestment goals. Today, Rob shares why HUD’s forthcoming Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule is a timely opportunity for cities looking to advance equity and prosperity.

By Rob Breymaier  |  Inclusive Communities Consortium

The goal of racial equity has been a prominent national topic in recent years, but it is often unclear how the goal translates into practical policy solutions. There are promising strategies that can, in most cities, advance racial equity, increase housing affordability, and meet new federal guidelines for fair housing. The Inclusive Communities Consortium was created to help local governments create and implement strategies that will concurrently reduce segregation, improve equity, and fuel prosperity in their communities.

Over the past decade, strong consensus has emerged among social scientists that high levels of housing segregation drive cycles of weak schooling, high crime, and low employment in many Black communities. Cities and metropolitan areas that achieve even moderate levels of desegregation soon see significant declines in racial disparities and higher levels of civic unity.

Reflecting this consensus, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) has, for some years, encouraged local governments to develop community-based strategies that foster housing desegregation. On January 19, 2023, HUD took a more concrete step, announcing a new proposed rule that would require cities and counties that receive funding from HUD to engage in more robust and systemic fair housing planning.

Under the Rule, which is expected to be finalized by this summer, HUD recipients must develop “Equity Plans” on a five-year rotating basis and provide annual progress reports. Equity Plans must include analysis and solutions for:

  1. Ongoing segregation or lack of integration;
  2. Racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty;
  3. Significant disparities in access to opportunity;
  4. Inequitable access to affordable housing opportunities and homeownership opportunities;
  5. Laws, ordinances, policies, practices, or procedures that impede the provision of affordable housing in well-resourced areas;
  6. Inequitable distribution of local resources, including municipal services, emergency services, community-based support services, and investments in infrastructure; and
  7. Discrimination or violations of civil rights law or regulations related to housing or access to community assets.

HUD is encouraging a balanced approach that addresses segregation by both increasing investments in under-resourced areas and improving racial and economic integration through affirmative counseling and mobility programs. Specifically, HUD aims to:

  • Prioritize Goals Over Analysis: HUD will provide data and tools to assist with the identification of these issues to reduce the burden on recipients so that they can focus on strategies, goals, and outcomes that will demonstrate significant improvement over time.
  • Emphasize Community Engagement: HUD is emphasizing community engagement and public participation in Equity Plans. To this end, HUD is making the entire process more transparent, including making its data, recipients Equity Plans, and public comments available on its website.
  • Enhance Transparency: This transparency will be accompanied by a new private complaint process that allows for more robust enforcement of the Rule if recipients fail to comply with requirements, and to improve enforcement as a tool for improvement rather than punishment.
  • Create a Clearer and More Effective Rule: The upshot is that HUD will require actionable and realistic strategies to effectively mitigate or resolve core issues identified in the Rule and will annually evaluate progress to determine recipients’ authenticity toward addressing Fair Housing Issues and achieving Fair Housing Goals. Recipients must correlate Fair Housing Issues with Fair Housing Goals to mitigate or resolve identified issues in their communities.

Your community can follow both the letter and the spirit of the AFFH Rule in ways that will improve quality of life and prosperity for all residents. ICC can help you and your staff prepare for this rule change with our completely free suite of services that includes an initial analysis of available data to identify housing strengths and weaknesses, proposed strategies to support compliance with the new Rule in ways that benefit the community, and support to cities on convening stakeholder groups and subject matter experts. As a group, MIP Mayors could demonstrate that this Rule is a tool for success in cities across the nation.

Rob BreymaierRob Breymaier is the Principal of the Community Solutions Collaborative, a consulting company working with local governments and non-profits to achieve equity and prosperity in their communities. He has over 20 years of experience working with government and community stakeholders on racial equity and inclusion in housing, community development, and community engagement.