Monday, April 30, 2012

National Fair Housing Alliance Trends Report Has Some Speculation About Coming Changes in HUD Analysis of Impediments.

Full report is HERE. The AI Section begins on PDF page 30:
....HUD has drafted a proposed rule. It is currently under review by OMB, and is expected to be published for comment later this spring.

While the proposed rule has yet to be released, HUD has given indications about how it will be structured. Among other changes, HUD plans to eliminate the current requirement for jurisdictions to prepare periodic Analyses of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AIs), and replace this with a new form of analysis known as the Assessment of Fair Housing, or AFH. According to HUD, there are strong similarities between the Fair Housing Equity Assessment required for grantees of HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative and the new AFH. The AFH will consist of at least five components: an analysis of the housing needs of protected classes; an assessment of patterns of integration or segregation in the community; identification of racially or ethnically concentrated  areas of poverty; an analysis of disparities in access to opportunity for members of protected classes; and an examination of the local fair housing infrastructure, both public and private. The goal is to direct jurisdictions to spend their funds in ways that expand access to opportunity for all local residents.

To reduce the burden on jurisdictions, HUD is building a new data analysis and mapping system that will make it easier for grantees to do the necessary background work for the AFHs. The system, which will be available to the public as well as to grantees, will provide access to data about local demographics, housing, education, transportation, jobs and other factors affecting access to opportunity.

Grantees will be required to submit to HUD an AFH in advance of, but on the same cycle as, the submission of their Consolidated Plans (Con Plans). Failure to submit an acceptable AFH will delay the jurisdiction’s receipt of HUD funding. HUD intends to review each AFH submitted, and unless it takes action within 45 days to deem the AFH inadequate or incomplete, the AFH will be considered approved. According to HUD, jurisdictions’ Con Plans and Public Housing Authority Plans will have to be consistent with their AFHs, indicating how they are addressing the goals and priorities described in the AFH. Annual action plans will have to describe any significant changes in local conditions  and update the goals and priorities accordingly.

Based on what we know so far, there are several aspects of this new approach to affirmatively furthering fair housing that are of particular concern. One is whether HUD has the capacity to review all of the AFHs it will receive, both in terms of the level of staffing available for those reviews and the training the staff have received. This is critical since AFHs will be deemed approved in the absence of action to the contrary by HUD. HUD could potentially phase in the new AFH requirement to alleviate some of the capacity concern.

A second red flag for fair housing is the lack of an appeals process. While HUD says that the public will have ample opportunity to provide input and comment on their jurisdiction’s AFH, the specifics of the public participation provisions are not yet clear. Nor is it clear how jurisdictions will respond to concerns raised by members of the community. If inadequate AFHs are approved, there will be no mechanism for the public to appeal HUD’s decision and force a jurisdiction to make necessary revisions, short of filing a fair housing complaint.

Finally, it remains to be seen how effective the enforcement mechanism will be. The ultimate tool that HUD has to ensure that jurisdictions address their obligations to affirmatively further fair housing is to delay or deny their funding. HUD has this authority currently, but has exercised it only on rare occasions. When the rule is published, it will be important for fair housing advocates to review it carefully and submit comments about any flaws or weaknesses and ways the final rule can be strengthened. HUD’s goal is to have a final rule in place before the end of 2012.
Originally created and posted on the Oregon Housing Blog.

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