Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reintroduced a rule Thursday aimed at combating housing discrimination, that the Trump administration had previously cut. 
  • The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule largely follows the previous version requiring states, cities and public housing agencies seeking federal funds to complete a comprehensive assessment explaining how housing segregation exists in their communities and their plan to address it. The Biden administration previously restored AFFH in 2021, but the new version refined the previous version based on feedback from stakeholders, the agency stated. 
  • “This proposed rule is a major step towards fulfilling the law’s full promise and advancing our legal, ethical, and moral charge to provide equitable access to opportunity for all,” said HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge in a statement.

Dive Insight:

First introduced by the Obama administration in 2015, AFFH aimed to bolster enforcement of the Fair Housing Act’s affirmatively furthering fair housing mandate. The 1968 law directs HUD and program participants to take actions that proactively foster inclusive communities, eliminate discriminatory patterns and promote fair housing choice, the agency stated.

The Trump administration, under former HUD Secretary Ben Carson, effectively scrapped the rule. Carson wanted to replace the Obama administration’s 2015 AFFH rule with measures that tie HUD grants to communities with less restrictive zoning. Former President Donald Trump equated measures the Biden campaign said it would take to bar discrimination in housing as an attempt to “abolish the suburbs.”

The Biden administration is seeking public comment for its newly proposed AFFH rule. Under the proposed rule, participating cities, states and public housing agencies every five years would need to submit an equity plan to HUD that provides an analysis of fair housing issues confronting their communities and goals and strategies that address those issues in “concrete ways,” HUD stated. Equity plans would need to be created through robust community engagement.

Participating cities, states, and agencies would need to incorporate goals and strategies stated in their accepted equity plans into planning documents. They would also need to submit annual progress evaluations that describe progress made or modifications needed to achieve each equity plan goal. Diverging from the 2015 rule, members of the public would be able to file complaints with HUD if participants are not living up to their AFFH commitments to ensure compliance, HUD stated. 

The Biden administration attempted to simplify the fair housing analysis in its latest version of AFFH and emphasized “goal-setting,” increased transparency, enhanced technical assistance provided by HUD to local communities and mechanisms for regular program evaluation and greater accountability. 

The rule received support from more than 30 national racial justice and housing organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders, the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Urban League.

The latest AFFH rule “is an important step toward creating more equitable and affordable housing opportunities and stronger, more viable neighborhoods,” the organizations stated in a press release on Thursday. 

“Our organizations urged the Biden-Harris administration to prioritize restoring inclusive fair housing rules that were previously weakened or ignored, and that ensure everyone lives in healthy, well-resourced, vibrant communities free from discrimination,” the organizations stated. “This administration committed on day one to address our request and today has taken another step toward fulfilling its promise to advance fair housing.”