By: Tracy M. Evans, Esq., Associate, Saxon Gilmore & Carraway, P.A.
On Wednesday, July 8, 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) released its final rule on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (the “Rule”), designed to provide communities that receive HUD funding with data and tools to assist them in meeting their obligations and goals under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (“FHA”). These goals include promoting affordable housing, community development, and equal opportunity. The purpose behind the Rule is to provide communities and housing authorities with more direction from the federal government about how to create policies to further FHA’s goals, and how to measure the success of these policies.
The Rule seeks to clarify and simplify existing FHA obligations by providing HUD funding recipients with historical data for use in analyzing segregation patterns, areas with particularly high levels of race and poverty concentrations, disproportionate housing needs, and disparities in access to good jobs and schools. HUD funding recipients will be required to use this data to create an Assessment of Fair Housing (“AFH”), containing the results of their analysis and setting forth local priorities and goals aimed at reducing segregation. HUD funding recipients will also be required to track and report the results of their policies and programs aimed at addressing these goals and priorities.
Critics of the Rule argue that the Rule is nothing more than an attempt by the federal government to impose its own view of what local communities should look like, and that these decisions are best left to the sole discretion of local communities and local leaders. The Rule is touted by HUD, however, to be a means to better equip local communities with the tools necessary to uncover and address patterns of segregation, and leaves local communities with all the power to create policies to address these problems. Even so, in instances where communities fail to implement satisfactory policies aimed at addressing these issues, the federal government may withhold further HUD funding.
The earliest deadline for the first AFH submission under the Rule is 270 calendar days prior to January 1, 2017. For public housing authorities, the first deadline is 270 calendar days prior to the fiscal year beginning January 1, 2018, or for “Qualified Public Housing Authorities,” as defined under Section 2702 of Title II of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, 270 calendar days prior to the fiscal year beginning January 1, 2019.
Even though the first submission deadline is two to four years away, HUD funding recipients should begin familiarizing themselves with the new process and requirements, to ensure submissions are timely and accurate, to avoid the possibility of losing HUD funding. Also, until the first AFH submission is due, HUD funding recipients must continue to conduct an Analysis of Impediments in accordance with existing HUD regulations.
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