Opening Acts: May 11, 2018

Civil Rights Groups Take Legal Action to Compel Implementation of Federal Fair Housing Act

LAWSUIT CHALLENGES SUSPENSION OF HUD’S AFFIRMATIVELY FURTHERING FAIR HOUSING RULE

On May 8, 2018, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), Texas Appleseed, and Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (Texas Housers) filed a federal lawsuit in Washington, D.C. alleging that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) illegally suspended a federal rule that requires local and state governments to address residential segregation in their jurisdictions. The plaintiffs are seeking a court order requiring HUD to immediately resume implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule.

The federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 not only prohibited housing discrimination, but also obligated governments to affirmatively further fair housing. However, for decades after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, jurisdictions throughout the country routinely ignored segregation and discrimination while continuing to receive HUD funds. In 2015, HUD adopted the AFFH rule to address this problem, laying out the first set of effective regulations to ensure local and state recipients of federal financial assistance comply with the law. The AFFH rule set out an in-depth Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) process for jurisdictions which aids them in identifying, prioritizing, and implementing plans to overcome barriers to housing choice and reduce residential racial segregation.

In January 2018, HUD announced the suspension of the AFFH rule. This suspension delays the implementation of this process for almost 1,000 jurisdictions until at least 2024 and affects the lives of millions of people while local municipalities continue to receive federal funds with no accountability. In its place, HUD proposes that funded recipients revert to a fair housing planning process that HUD and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have found to be ineffective.

The plaintiffs allege that HUD’s suspension of the AFFH Rule, which came without advance notice or opportunity to comment on the suspension, violates the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires certain procedures for the adoption and modification of federal regulations. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that suspension of the AFFH Rule violates HUD’s own duty to affirmatively further fair housing.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the law firm of Relman, Dane & Colfax PLLC, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), and Public Citizen Litigation Group.

“For thirty years, NFHA has promoted the affirmatively furthering fair housing requirement of the Fair Housing Act. We have advocated to HUD to release an effective AFFH Rule, educated jurisdictions, fair housing groups and community-based organizations about the AFFH requirements, and implemented programs designed to further fair housing,” said Lisa Rice, President and CEO of NFHA in a statement. “Each day HUD holds up requiring jurisdictions to fully comply with the law is another day that millions of people are being denied fair housing opportunities. HUD’s action is a clear example of ‘justice delayed, justice denied.’”

“We have spent over a decade working with state and local governments to provide understanding that segregation is not an accident—it is the product of decades of intentional government policy,” said Madison Sloan, Director of Texas Appleseed’s Disaster Recovery & Fair Housing Project in the same statement. “Reversing segregation is critical—and not just for the communities that have been denied access to safe, decent neighborhoods through exclusion and disinvestment. It is research-based policy that benefits everyone. HUD’s unlawful suspension of the AFFH rule is a huge step backward in the movement to create equitable, inclusive communities.”

FHJC Executive Director Fred Freiberg stated, “The duty to affirmatively further fair housing has been in the law since 1968 and there has been little or no implementation by HUD of this provision.  The Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC) is a member of the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) and proudly stands in solidarity with NFHA and the other organizational plaintiffs who, through this legal action, seek to ensure that the Fair Housing Act is fully implemented without further delay.”

Click here read NFHA’s press release and the full complaint.

The mission of the Fair Housing Justice Center (FHJC), a nonprofit civil rights organization, is to eliminate housing discrimination; promote policies and programs to foster open, accessible, and inclusive communities; and strengthen fair housing enforcement in the New York City region.