February 10, 2023
In 2015, the Obama administration sought to revive a neglected rule within the 1968 Fair Housing Act untouched since Mitt Romney’s father, George (R – Michigan), sought to enforce it against Richard Nixon’s will after the act’s inception. (Romney resigned from his Department of Housing and Urban Development office after Nixon stymied his efforts.) Known as the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing provision, this rule was intended to ensure that the Fair Housing Act would not only prevent future discrimination, but also actively force local and state governments to undo existing patterns of segregation that had already emerged in neighborhoods across the U.S.. The Obama administration requested that government entities receiving HUD grants begin collecting comprehensive, outlined data sets to demonstrate their awareness of and plans to undo local segregation when it revived the AFFH mandate in 2015. In 2018, the Trump administration then effectively gutted these requirements before fully renouncing the revived rule in 2020 with claims that it intended to “abolish the suburbs.”
Now that the Biden administration has once again brought AFFH to the table with a new proposed rule to enforce the mandate, we at the Redress Movement want to clarify the necessity and significance of this development. First off, we want to make clear that to equate the act of affirmatively furthering fair housing to abolishing the suburbs is a misconception. Wealthy white enclaves are among the most segregated places in the country, as Heather McGhee writes in The Sum of Us (2021), and to make these suburbs inclusive is to engage in the fight against historic segregation just as much as breaking up areas of concentrated disadvantage. Secondly, we want to affirm that redressing segregation and its broader effects on housing markets and neighborhood inequality is key to building a more prosperous, more equitable nation for everyone in the U.S. As the National Fair Housing Alliance wrote in a recent statement on the newly proposed AFFH rule: “By addressing structural inequities, we can build a stronger economy, develop and support more affordable housing options, and maintain a check on inflation, as housing is the single largest expense for the average consumer.” Segregation may target some people more so than others according to the color of their skin, their level of physical ability, their sexuality, or their level and sources of income, but in the end segregation adversely impacts all of us.
The interim AFFH rule published by HUD on its website, which remains open to public comment, has some especially exciting features. It simplifies data collection for state and local governments’ Equity Plans to seven key dimensions—demographics, levels of segregation, identifying of racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty (R/ECAPs), community assets, access to affordable housing, access to homeownership, levels of economic opportunity, and local policies and practices that impact fair housing. It also includes measures for expanded public comment and enforcing accountability, and allows through both these and revised data collection standards for more community-specific flexibility in AFFH implementation. Affirmatively furthering fair housing can mean expanding access to high-opportunity neighborhoods through expanded housing voucher programs and inclusionary zoning. It can also mean ensuring that community assets are made equivalent across neighborhoods, or that government funds go toward preserving existing affordable housing in neighborhoods at high risk of displacement as well as toward the creation of new affordable units elsewhere.
If you are interested in getting involved with affirmatively furthering fair housing, you can submit comments to HUD during the rule’s interim period (PolicyLink developed a helpful guide on how to do this), or begin using our Neighbor’s Guide to Segregation to research how segregation has impacted your community and other communities nearby according to the relevant data points named in the proposed AFFH rule. We’d also welcome you to join our mailing list, since our organization’s efforts at redressing segregation go hand-in-hand with the federal government’s latest efforts to undo the patterns of segregation and inequality it once actively promoted.
Without redressing historic segregation, even the end of present housing discrimination will not lead to opportunity equally distributed across neighborhoods, regardless of race, or class, or location. Without affirmatively furthering fair housing, efforts to ensure fair housing can only mitigate rather than transform a longstanding, segregated and unequal status quo. At the Redress Movement, we are interested in building community power to affirmatively further fair housing and undoing segregation by agitating for actions of redress responsive to segregation’s history. To engage with more news stories related to redress and to hear more about our work, sign up to join our mailing list mentioned above, and keep an eye out for news updates in this section of our website. Also be sure to explore our resource pages where you can learn more about the history and consequences of segregation, read through the vocabulary of segregation, or download one of our policy briefs on current segregation-related housing issues, in addition to accessing the aforementioned Neighbor’s Guide.