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HUD Announces Final Fair Housing Rule for HUD-Funded Communities

HUD announced Wednesday the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Final Rule, which will help communities that receive HUD funding get the help they need to meet fair housing obligations in the use of HUD funds.

In addition to equipping these communities with data and tools to help them meet their fair housing obligations, additional guidance and technical assistance will be provided by HUD to assist local decision-makers on fair housing priorities and affordable housing and community development goals. The aim of the final rule is to provide participants in HUD programs with clear guidelines and data they need to achieve the goals outlined in the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which directs HUD and its program participants to promote fair housing and equal opportunity so that everyone can have access to affordable, quality housing regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status.

HUD Secretary Julián Castro called the final rule "historic" in a report from the Washington Post on Wednesday. That same report said the new rule has been a "top demand of civil rights groups" in order to dismantle segregation and promote integration in major metro areas such as Chicago and Baltimore that have historically been deeply segregated.

“As a former mayor, I know firsthand that strong communities are vital to the well-being and prosperity of families,”  Castro said. “Unfortunately, too many Americans find their dreams limited by where they come from, and a ZIP code should never determine a child’s future. This important step will give local leaders the tools they need to provide all Americans with access to safe, affordable housing in communities that are rich with opportunity.”

The final rule is the result of recommendations of a 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office; stakeholders and HUD program participants who had asked for clarification, technical assistance, better compliance, and more meaningful outcomes; and feedback from significant public input and comments received during the final rule's development.

HUD announced that in response to public feedback, the Department will phase in the implementation of the final rule to give grantees time to transition to the new balanced approach that includes targeted investments in revitalizing areas and increased housing choices in areas of opportunity, according to HUD.

The new rule also includes the promotion of access to community assets such as quality education, employment, and transportation for HUD's program participants.

"We're eager to support local leaders in giving every person an equal chance to access quality housing near good schools, transportation, and jobs, no matter who they are, what they look like, how they worship, or where they're from," Castro said in a conference call about the final rule on Wednesday. "This is vitally important because we know that were you live matters. Recently, Harvard economists led by Raj Chetty released a groundbreaking report that verified what many of us already knew in our gut - that children who live in good neighborhoods do much better than those who are stuck in poverty, which is why we must give every young person access to a community of opportunity."

In addition to clarifying and simplifying existing fair housing obligations, HUD's new final rule creates a streamlined Assessment of Fair Housing planning process in order to help communities analyze challenges to fair housing choice and establish goals and priorities to address those challenges.

“The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing provision of the Fair Housing Act was intended to help remedy years of government-supported segregation and inequality, not by forcing diversity, but by empowering and encouraging states and localities to partner with the federal government to address the effects of these harmful policies," U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-California) said. "The regulation released today would provide communities with greater clarity on how to help break down barriers to creating neighborhoods of opportunity by arming local authorities with better data to analyze their housing needs. It will empower them to be more strategic in their housing policies and help ensure federal funds are not used to support discriminatory policies, such as those that unfairly deprive minority communities of investment, or zoning laws that unfairly exclude persons with disabilities."

The rule will take effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register, though it will not be immediately fully implemented, according to HUD. The Department will provide support to program participants that need to complete an Assessment of Fair Housing to make sure those participants understand the process and identify best practices, according to HUD's announcement.

Click here to find out more about the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Final Rule.

About Author: Seth Welborn

Seth Welborn is a Harding University graduate with a degree in English and a minor in writing. He is a contributing writer for MReport. An East Texas Native, he has studied abroad in Athens, Greece and works part-time as a photographer.

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