Philadelphia, May 17, 2021 — Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and the Reinvestment Fund announced today the release of a pathbreaking research brief that proposes the use of fair housing law to work toward the end of segregation. The report, “An ‘All-Out’ Effort to Achieve Desegregation and Equality of Opportunity: Assessment of Fair Housing 2.0.,” reminds that the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) provision of the Fair Housing Act is an obligation that attaches to all Executive Branch agencies, not just the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. It recommends that a revised Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH), a planning tool created by the Obama Administration that helps implement the AFFH, can be constructively used as a framework to significantly increase racial justice through a coordinated approach to racial and economic integration in American communities.
The authors, which include Provost and James S. Riepe Presidential Professor of Law and Education Wendell E. Pritchett, law student and Toll Public Interest Fellow Erica V. Rodarte Costa and Reinvestment Fund’s Ira J. Goldstein and Emily S. Dowdall, found that the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which was passed more than 50 years ago, has not achieved the impact its framers hoped for. They write that segregation remains a problem even in cities such as Philadelphia, where although residential racial desegregation has declined in the last decades, metrics still place the city in the “highly segregated” category.
“To improve racial and economic integration in American communities, we recommend the Biden administration revive AFH to, in part, reaffirm the goal of making all communities opportune places,” said Pritchett. “Through better cooperation of federal agencies, the AFH has the potential to build on the unique strengths of all places while ensuring the FHA provides equal access – both of which are vital steps towards ending segregation.”
To determine what was successful about how localities addressed fair housing through the AFH, which was rolled back during the Trump Administration, the authors conducted structured interviews 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.
“While community commitment to racial justice is critical to success, the federal government can facilitate this commitment by providing resources, support and cross-agency coordination that will enable local communities to create the most impactful strategies to reduce segregation,” notes Goldstein.
Based on the data collected, the authors recommend the Biden administration provide additional financial and expert assistance to communities, improve the quality of data and mapping tools and create a manageable set of meaningful data-based goals that support an actionable and righteous AFH. The authors also stress the importance of an “all-of-government” effort to ensure fair housing and equal opportunity for all – first acknowledged by Congress in writing the FHA in 1968.
“The inter-agency commitment necessary to fully achieve the Act’s goals has never been achieved, but with new-found commitment and dramatically expanded investments, now might be the time that we finally make significant progress towards integrated and flourishing communities,” adds Pritchett.
Read the full brief.
About the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School
The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School was established in 1850. Since that time, the Law School at Penn has been at the forefront of legal education. Today the hallmarks of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School experience are a cross-disciplinary, globally focused legal education, and vibrant, collegial community. The Law School prepares graduates to navigate an increasingly complex world as leaders and influential decision-makers in the law and related fields.
About Reinvestment Fund
Reinvestment Fund is a mission-driven financial institution committed to making communities work for all people. We bring financial and analytical tools to partnerships that work to ensure that everyone has access to essential opportunities: affordable places to live, access to nutritious food and health care, schools where their children can flourish, and strong, local businesses that support jobs. We use data to understand markets, communities, and impediments to opportunity—and how investment and policy decisions can have the most powerful impact. Since our inception in 1985, Reinvestment Fund has provided over $2.4 billion in financing to strengthen neighborhoods, scale social enterprises, and build resilient communities. Learn more at reinvestment.com.