In July 2015, HUD published the final rule to affirmatively further fair housing. This rule clarifies the fair housing responsibilities of jurisdictions receiving HUD funds. Jurisdictions will now adopt Assessments of Fair Housing (AFH), using an Assessment Tool and relevant data provided by HUD, instead of the previous Analysis of Impediments (AI). While the implementation is being phased in over the coming years under the standard schedule for completing these analyses, local and state governments are already beginning to think about how to complete their AFHs. With that in mind, on March 31, the National Housing Conference, Enterprise Community Partners and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments sponsored an event, “Partners on Preparing for the Assessment of Fair Housing: Exploring Local Data Needs.” The goal of the event was to provide tools and more clarity on drafting an AFH. It included presentations by Katherine O’Regan, HUD assistant secretary of policy, development & research and Dan Pontius, Baltimore Metropolitan Council, as well as an overview of the assessment tool by HUD staff, a discussion of various national sources and presentations on how to approach data from local perspectives in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
The event provided some helpful reminders and new information for me when thinking about completing an AFH:
- The new rule and accompanying AFH is both a process and a promise. The goal, as Dr. O’Regan stated it, is for communities to go through a process that leads to a plan and actions that change the level of segregation in this country.
- Doing an AFH is not a new requirement because communities have been required to do fair housing planning all along. The information to be included is very similar to the inputs for an Analysis of Impediments but now the required inputs are clearer, and the AFH is clearly tied to a planning process, where the AI was not.
- HUD asks jurisdictions to include local data but data that is available at little or no cost and is relevant. Jurisdictions do not need to provide an exhaustive list of local data.
- AFHs need to address the data that HUD provides but jurisdictions can use more complex or nuanced local data in their analysis instead of HUD data.
- AFHs will include public housing authorities in local planning in a new way.
- HUD is continually working on the Assessment Tool to address bugs and add functionality where needed.
- HUD has made a number of helpful resources available, including a guidebook with examples to help jurisdictions as they start working on their AFHs.
We are only at the beginning of this process and have a lot to learn and work out, but AFHs can offer communities a significant opportunity to think through their approaches to affordable housing in new ways.