Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing is a Pathway to Inclusive Housing Futures

This fall, the Biden administration is poised to announce a new housing provision that could be a critical tool in communities’ work for housing justice. 

An upcoming new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule presents an opening for communities that have faced decades of housing divestment and displacement to design just housing futures across the country.

What is the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule? 

The AFFH rule is a provision of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which banned housing discrimination and predatory real estate practices. Today, this hard-fought law is still an important tool of defense for Black, Indigenous, Brown, and disabled communities, and anyone marginalized because of their race, color religion, national origin, sex, disability or familial status.

The people who fought for and designed the Fair Housing Act understood that just outlawing the most obvious discrimination would not reverse the harms caused by entrenched racial inequities, from redlining to predatory lending practices and more. That’s why they added a provision that requires the government to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing — meaning any entity that gets our public federal funds for housing (from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD) has to show how they’re using that money to proactively end housing inequities, and all the ways they affect people’s lives — from access to good schools, public transportation, jobs, and clean water and air.

For decades, the AFFH mandate was in the law, but cities were not held accountable for addressing inequities. Cities receiving funds for housing could submit a report called an Analysis of Impediments on their efforts, but it was not required. And importantly, they did not have to involve the communities most affected by housing injustices in their process. 

This changed in 2015 when the Obama administration, under advisement and in partnership with PolicyLink and coalitions of other housing justice advocates, instituted a strong AFFH rule. The 2015 AFFH Rule required key jurisdictions receiving HUD funds to open a public process in their communities to assess how they planned to address housing inequities, and to target federal resources in a way  that would increase access to housing choice and  opportunity.  This meant that housing justice advocates and communities facing eviction, discrimination, and displacement had a seat at the table in a new way. From New Orleans to Kansas City to Philadelphia, community advocates brought their ideas and demands for housing justice to the public record — from reforms like rent control and right to counsel in eviction proceedings, to ideas about where and how public housing should be built, to language access issues in the housing market. Learn more about the key aspects of the 2015 AFFH Rule below. 

In its one year of implementation before the Trump administration  repealed the 2015 AFFH rule, we saw early signs of success as the inaugural cohort of communities began to utilize the process. When Biden took office, HUD reinstated aspects of the 2015 rule (Restoring Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Definitions and Certifications interim final rule), but the rule does not not create an interim accountability structure or require a community planning process — yet. 

What comes next?

Now, the Biden administration is getting ready to announce a full draft AFFH rule that could be a critical tool in communities’ work for housing justice across the country. With community advocacy for the housing futures we all deserve, we can make it the strongest AFFH rule to date. 

The upcoming AFFH rule is critical to winning on equity in America’s neighborhoods and communities — neighborhoods whose current racial disparities can be traced back to discriminatory laws and practices of the past, such as redlining, racially restrictive covenants, steering, and predatory lending. Now, we can imagine and design new policies to build the abundant housing futures that are ours.

Continue to check back here over the next few weeks for upcoming resources, webinars, and tools for commenting on the 2022 AFFH Rule. Together we can work to ensure it is the tool we need to support communities to envision and plan for their housing futures! 

    The Promises and Objectives of the 2015 AFFH Rule

    The 2015 AFFH rule provided a structured process to change the trajectory of growing poverty and inequality. The AFFH rule and the Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) planning process the rule created helped HUD grantees weave together housing, health, transportation, education, environmental and economic development approaches that support the transformation of areas of concentrated poverty into thriving communities. The AFH process also is designed in a way that recognizes the connection between housing and the ability of individuals and families to access opportunities. Furthermore, the 2015 AFFH rule fosters the design of approaches that promote access to housing that is affordable in communities with high performing schools, clean air, and reliable transportation choices and access to workforce opportunities and good jobs.

    The 2015 AFFH rule supported local leaders’ success in meeting their long-standing requirement to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing, set forth in the Fair Housing Act of 1968, by providing them with resources in the form of guidance, a data and mapping tool, and technical assistance to support their planning success. The locally-driven AFH process helps communities overcome persistent and growing challenges related to disparities in opportunity, fair housing choice and racially concentrated poverty.

    Key aspects of the 2015 AFFH Rule:

    • Equipped local communities for decision making by providing local officials with a Data and Mapping tool and other analytical tools informed by data from the Census Bureau, other federal agencies and best practice: This data equipped HUD grantees to better analyze patterns, trends and conditions. Grantees are encouraged to gather additional local data and knowledge to ensure that the full local context and conditions inform the analysis.
       
    • Fostered rich community participation, ensuring that the experiences and perspectives of community members inform the assessment process.
       
    • Guided jurisdictions on how to better align federal funding: Community Development Block Grants, HOME funds, public housing financing, other HUD funds and other federal, state and local resources — to address the housing and economic inclusion challenges identified in the assessments of fair housing.
       
    • Promoted a more effective relationship between federal investments and housing choice and access: The rule encouraged integration of local planning processes through the incorporation of  strategies developed during the AFH process into the Consolidated or Public Housing Authority Plans.
       
    • Supported and facilitated locally designed solutions: Local governments developed solutions to fair housing choice and barriers to opportunity through an integrated planning approach that helped HUD grantees leverage expertise and resources through collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders (e.g. developers, banks, universities, advocacy groups, nonprofits and health providers, and other units of government).
       
    • Promoted Jobs and Workforce Development: The 2015 AFFH rule helped jurisdictions plan housing that is affordable and located near transit that connects to job centers, in opportunity rich communities; and that focuses revitalization efforts in distressed communities in a manner that co-locates affordable housing with community and economic development, workforce development and job placement services.
    • Supported and facilitated locally designed solutions: Local governments developed solutions to fair housing choice and barriers to opportunity through an integrated planning approach that helped HUD grantees leverage expertise and resources through collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders (e.g. developers, banks, universities, advocacy groups, nonprofits and health providers, and other units of government).
       
    • Promoted Jobs and Workforce Development: The 2015 AFFH rule helped jurisdictions plan housing that is affordable and located near transit that connects to job centers, in opportunity rich communities; and that focuses revitalization efforts in distressed communities in a manner that co-locates affordable housing with community and economic development, workforce development and job placement services.
       
    • Shaped through Extensive Piloting: The 2015 AFFH rule was piloted by 74 HUD grantees through the Fair Housing and Equity Assessment (FHEA). To test the effectiveness, the FHEA modeled many components of the AFFH including: guidance, data, mapping, stakeholder collaboration and consultation, and robust community participation.

    PolicyLink AFFH Archive