In a continuation of its year-long effort to dismantle the previous administration’s regulatory agenda, the Trump administration’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) announced that it would be postponing the submission deadline for reports due under the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (“AFFH”) rule until 2020. While there has not been any comparable announcement about the long-term fate of the controversial rule, it is widely believed that HUD will move to repeal or, as HUD Secretary Ben Carson said, “reinterpret,” the rule.
The AFFH rule, published by the Obama administration in 2015, was seen by many housing and anti-discrimination advocates as the biggest step forward in fair housing laws since the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act itself. As the name implies, the rule requires communities to “affirmatively further” fair housing, i.e. to not only prohibit discrimination, but actively promote desegregation. Communities are required to prepare and submit to HUD reports on the status of housing in their jurisdiction, as well as impediments to desegregation and the steps they will be taking to promote fair housing going forward. Notably, this was not limited to racial or ethnic minorities, but included other disadvantaged groups such as the disabled, the poor, etc.
In delaying the submission date of these reports, HUD noted that the rule has not been without its struggles. Many communities have complained that the requirement is burdensome or unclear, or that they lack the technical tools necessary to accurately measure their housing situation. There is also philosophical argument against the rule, in that it is seen as an intrusion by the federal government into local decisions about where people live and the character of the community. However, fair housing advocates note that desegregation efforts have stalled in most of the country, and existing gains have even been reversed in some areas.
Ultimately, the two-year delay could portend significant changes to how communities address fair housing. Until then, jurisdictions have two years to prepare their reports, and for those who have already made their submissions, HUD has indicated that it will not review reports already received.