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Capitol Correspondence - 01.13.20

HUD Releases Long-Anticipated Details of Proposal to Scale Back Housing Protections

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officially announced its proposal to scale back housing protections, which the Washington Post previewed last week. This has concerned disability advocates, as people with disabilities face greater challenges accessing affordable housing than their peers without disabilities. The proposal has not yet been published in the Federal Register, so we do not yet know what the formal comment period will be. We will keep members apprised when a comment deadline is set and we obtain more information on this proposal’s potential impact on the disability community.

As stated in HUD’s notice of proposed rule-making (NPRM):

“While the statutory obligation to AFFH [affirmatively further fair housing] has not changed, HUD has, over time, required program participants to document their efforts and plans to AFFH in several different ways. Since the issuance of the 2015 final rule, HUD has determined that the current regulations are overly burdensome to both HUD and grantees and are ineffective in helping program participants meet their reporting obligations for multiple reasons. While some of the burdens are a result of the assessment tools themselves, the tools are closely tied to the regulatory language, which HUD believes is too prescriptive in outcomes for jurisdictions. Therefore, HUD believes it is necessary to revise the codified regulation, not just the assessment tools.

[…]

HUD believes that fair housing choice exists when a jurisdiction can foster the broad availability of affordable housing that is decent, safe, and sanitary and does so without housing discrimination. To that end, HUD is proposing to evaluate how program participants are carrying out their AFFH obligation as a threshold matter by using a series of data-based measures to determine whether a jurisdiction (1) is free of adjudicated fair housing claims; (2) has an adequate supply of affordable housing throughout the jurisdiction; and (3) has an adequate supply of quality affordable housing. Jurisdictions that score highly using these metrics (or through improvements over a 5-year cycle) would be eligible for various incentives in HUD 14 programs. HUD would focus remedial resources and potential regulatory enforcement actions on the lowest performers.

All program participants included in the consolidated plan process would be required to examine their own circumstances to determine how best to address their AFFH performance. HUD is proposing to modify the regulatory requirements of jurisdictions’ certifications that they will AFFH by requiring the jurisdictions to commit, in the certification, to taking specific steps to address obstacles to fair housing choice. As a result of HUD’s proposal to include these commitments as part of the consolidated plan, jurisdictions would consult with all relevant stakeholders to develop AFFH commitments tailored to the needs and situations of the jurisdiction. HUD expects that jurisdictions would then be able to share with others, through HUD and otherwise, what worked and what did not work, allowing jurisdictions to learn from one another as they develop new approaches. PHAs would be required to participate in the development of this certification through their participation in the consolidated plan process; this participation and their own accompanying AFFH certification would be how PHAs fulfill their AFFH responsibilities.

The previous AFFH process—which required lengthy submissions that averaged 204 pages but stretched as long as 832 pages—risked violating the organizational management maxim that if everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. In contrast, HUD believes that simplifying AFFH requirements would aid program participants in meeting their statutory civil rights obligations. It would also help HUD target its enforcement and technical assistance for jurisdictions receiving CDBG funds so that HUD’s efforts are directed where they are needed. This would allow jurisdictions to focus on their most important fair housing goals so that the jurisdiction could achieve more of their aims, instead of trying to execute too many goals to be successful. By having jurisdictions focus on fewer elements, it would be easier for the public to provide relevant information and feedback, better enabling jurisdictions to take those contributions from the public into consideration.”