Fair housing law is an essential tool to achieving racial and economic integration and realizing the attendant benefits for all types of communities. This brief draws on structured interviews conducted by Reinvestment Fund and the University of Pennsylvania with former officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), local housing officials in New Orleans, Houston, Kansas City (MO), Indianapolis, and Philadelphia, and fair housing experts and advocates. The interviews explored what was successful about how localities addressed fair housing through the Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH)—introduced in the Obama administration and rolled back during the Trump administration— improvements that would make it more useful if implemented again in some form, and areas for enhancement beyond the scope of the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule and planning process.
- At the outset of a new presidential administration and at this critical juncture for addressing racial inequity, we propose to harness the full potential of fair housing law as a powerful tool for promoting racial and economic integration to improve outcomes in communities.
- Fair housing should be an all–of–government effort with cooperation across federal agencies and coordination across federal, state, and local levels. We propose that HUD retain responsibility for the AFH effort as it does for all federal fair housing matters. We also propose the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC) act as a central organizing body to oversee activities and investments in ways that significantly accelerate integration. DPC attention can ensure the all-of-government effort that ending segregation requires.
- We recommend building on the 2015 Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) as a framework to significantly increase racial justice through a coordinated approach to racial and economic integration in American communities. A revived AFH should, at least in part, reaffirm the goal of making all communities opportune places—and clarify that the purpose is not to just bar subsidized housing production in, or help people depart from places that now are not.
- Our research indicates that the AFH process would benefit from the following improvements:
- Provide additional financial and expert assistance to communities so that they can create a high-quality AFH.
- Improve the quality of the data and mapping tool so that the data are fresh, accurate, and speak to the questions a community raises. If a community has alternative data and mapping tools, those should suffice.
- Clarifying the creation of a manageable set of data-informed, meaningful goals. Tracking and monitoring as much as HUD required with AFH 1.0 was reported to be a significant and oftentimes less than optimally meaningful effort.