The Potential Costs to Public Engagement of HUD’s Assessment of Fair Housing Delay
In January 2018, the Trump administration announced that it was delaying the deadline for jurisdictions to comply with an Obama-era rule requiring a robust examination of residential segregation and barriers to housing choice. In response, the NYU Furman Center evaluated some of the potential costs of the Trump administration’s action in comments submitted to HUD on March 6, 2018, titled, "The Potential Costs to Public Engagement of HUD’s Assessment of Fair Housing Delay."
The federal Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968, outlaws discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, family status, national origin, or disability. As part of its mandate, the law requires that localities receiving federal housing and urban development funds take steps “affirmatively to further” fair housing to address residential segregation and reduce barriers to fair housing. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a final rule clarifying that requirement. The final rule requires that localities, through extensive community engagement and data analysis, complete a standardized, in-depth evaluation of residential segregation and disparities in access to opportunity within the jurisdiction and the broader region, and identify the factors contributing to these fair housing issues. The jurisdiction is then required to identify specific and measurable steps to reduce these barriers to integration within a stated timeline. This evaluation is called an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH), and it replaces a less robust fair housing evaluation HUD previously required of jurisdictions called the Analysis of Impediments (AI).
In January 2018, the Trump administration announced that it was delaying the deadline for jurisdictions to submit their AFHs until the next deadline they would face after October 30, 2020. In the interim, jurisdictions must complete only the AI previously required.
In response to this delay, and reversion to the AI framework, the NYU Furman Center evaluated some of the potential costs of the Trump administration’s action. NYU Furman Center Directors Katherine O’Regan and Vicki Been compared AFHs from 19 of the first 28 jurisdictions to file an AFH with the AIs previously submitted by those same jurisdictions, and analyzed the public’s engagement in both sets of processes across a number of criteria.
The authors find that the public engagement in the AFH processes was significantly more robust than that in the AI processes. In the AFH processes, the number of opportunities for public participation were much greater; many more people participated; the jurisdictions used a far broader array of communication channels to reach a wide range of communities; and jurisdictions were more likely to provide opportunities for participation at times and places more accessible to members of different communities. Jurisdictions documented their outreach efforts and participation rates in much more detail under the AFH processes. Jurisdictions were also much more likely to collaborate, either with their public housing authority or another jurisdiction (or both), and to engage with non-housing agencies, such as in education, transportation, health, and workforce development.
The authors argue that a significant cost of the Trump administration’s decision to delay implementation of the AFH requirement is the loss of the robust opportunities for public participation that jurisdictions provided under the AFH process relative to the public engagement they provided in completing their AIs. Extensive public engagement in defining the extent of residential segregation and discrimination, evaluating the consequences of segregation, and determining how best to eradicate discrimination and ensure opportunities for integrated, diverse communities, is essential to achieve the promise of the Fair Housing Act. Returning to a process that offered far fewer opportunities for public participation is an unfortunate step backwards.