Taking Fair Housing One Step Further
Updated: May 18
Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing in the Fair Housing Act of 1968
In 1968, Congress passed the landmark Fair Housing Act (FHA) that promised to end housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. Proponents of the new law knew that simply creating a law making these types of discrimination illegal was not going to be enough. The FHA would do very little to promote racial integration were it not for the obligation included in the law to further the purpose of the act. From the beginning, the FHA established two mandates for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): eliminate illegal discrimination in housing-related activities and affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH). Instead of merely stopping behaviors that make access to housing unequal, the AFFH mandated HUD to promote behaviors that make access more equal.
The rule itself has had a rocky history and has been much harder to implement and enforce than anti-discrimination. Initially, HUD took limited actions to implement the AFFH mandate and it wasn’t until 1992 that the requirement to meet Fair Housing Review Criteria was required of all community planning and development programs managed by HUD. By 1995, HUD implemented the AFFH mandate by requiring each grantee to complete an analysis of impediments to fair housing choice, but it did not have a process to provide resources or verify compliance.
In 2015, under the Obama Administration, HUD established a detailed and comprehensive process by which grantees had to conduct an extensive fair housing analysis, commit to specific steps to remedy housing concerns, and submit to HUD for review. The rule clarified the AFFH mandate and provided a robust toolkit for jurisdictions to use to identify and address barriers to fair housing in their communities. The rule was rescinded in 2020 under the Trump administration but was quickly restored when Biden took office, albeit without some of the burdensome procedural provisions of the 2015 rule.
With the 2021 rule, grantees must certify that they are meeting the Fair Housing Act’s AFFH obligation. HUD provides technical assistance and support for grantees that want help with fair housing planning to support their certifications. As Biden states in his President’s Memorandum,
“the Federal Government has a critical role to play in overcoming and redressing this history of discrimination”
and the AFFH requirement “is not only a mandate to refrain from discrimination but a mandate to take actions that undo historic patterns of segregation and other types of discrimination and that afford access to long-denied opportunities.” According to the Alliance for Housing Justice, “The AFFH Rules provides a structured process to change the trajectory of growing poverty and inequality.”
For more information on the AFFH along with fact sheets and resources, visit HUD’s website at https://www.hud.gov/AFFH