AFFH Public Comment Guide
Designing Our Just Housing Futures
On January 19, 2023, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule and will be accepting comments from the public for 60 days, beginning on the date the rule is published in the Federal Register. Public comment on the 2023 proposed AFFH rule is due on April 10, 2023. Please check HUD’s AFFH page or Regulations.gov for regular updates on the public comment timeline.
Public comments are due 60 days after proposed rules are published in the Federal Register. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the 2023 proposed AFFH rule has been published in the Federal Register as of February 9, 2023, and public comment will be due by April 10, 2023.
PolicyLink's Designing Our Just Housing Futures: Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Public Comment Guide provides tips for organizations and individuals as they review the rule and begin to craft their comments for the 2023 proposed AFFH Rule. You can download the full guide here or review the web-based version below. The comment guide provides more background on the AFFH rule, an overview of the federal rulemaking and public comment process, a step-by-step guide to support you or your organization to write and submit a strong, equity-focused comment, data sources to support it, and sample language for organizations across sectors to use in their public comment.
2023 Proposed AFFH Rule Key Components
Housing Futures Platform
Uplift Equity in Your Comments
Tips for Organizations
Tips for Individuals
How, Where, and by What Date to Submit Comments
AFFH Matters for Equity Advocates in All Policy Areas
2023 Proposed AFFH Rule Key Components
The new proposed AFFH rule follows the framework of the 2015 AFFH rule in that participants must still identify fair housing issues, set priorities, and develop goals to address them; however, the rule has been refined based on HUD’s experience and stakeholder feedback, and, according to HUD, is designed to be simpler and more flexible. Below is an overview of the proposed AFFH rule’s key components.
The 2023 proposed AFFH rule establishes an Equity Plan (formerly known as the Assessment of Fair Housing). Components of the plan include the following.
All program participants are required to complete an Equity Plan. The new “streamlined process” requires participants to respond to questions in a few broad areas. The new rule does away with the 2015 AFH Assessment tool, which included more than 100 questions and more than 40 contributing factors.
Equity Plans must respond to a set of questions related to the following:
- Segregation and integration
- R/ECAPs (racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty)
- Access to community assets
- Access to affordable housing opportunities
- Access to homeownership and economic opportunity
- Local and state policies and practices impacting fair housing
Equity Plans must include the following:
- Description of fair housing issues identified, which includes conditions that constitute the fair housing issue and protected class groups who are adversely affected
- Prioritization of fair housing issues with priority given to fair housing issues that will result in the most effective fair housing goals for achieving material positive change for underserved communities
- Fair housing goals
- Description of community engagement activities
HUD intends to keep providing and making publicly accessible its data sets, maps, tools, and other resources to aid program participants and communities in identifying fair housing concerns. HUD will also post all program participants’ Equity Plans on a HUD-run website, enabling participants to view accepted plans from others and learn from their experiences.
Community engagement is a continued priority for the AFFH process, and the proposed rule includes the following requirements.
- Program participants must engage with the public during the development of the Equity Plan, from the identification of fair housing issues to the establishment of fair housing goals.
- While the Equity Plan is in effect, program participants must also engage with their communities on at least an annual basis to receive community input on the advancement of previously established fair housing goals.
- For the development of an Equity Plan, community engagement must include, at a minimum, the following components:
- At least three public meetings at various accessible locations and at different times
- At least one meeting held in a location in the jurisdiction in which underserved communities disproportionately reside
- Annual community engagement must include at least two public meetings at different locations, with one located in an area of the jurisdiction in which underserved communities predominantly reside
- Community engagement must involve reaching out to local leaders and community-based organizations, including advocates, community groups, clergy, health-care providers, educators, and service providers like social workers and case managers, to gather community perspectives and provide fair housing planning information.
The 2023 AFFH rule poses a stronger link between fair housing goals and strategies.
- The proposed AFFH rule requires program participants to incorporate the fair housing goals from their Equity Plans into their consolidated plan, annual action plan, or Public Housing Authority (PHA) plan.
- Program participants must also incorporate the fair housing goals from their Equity Plans into planning documents required in connection with the receipt of federal financial assistance from any other federal executive department or agency.
Timeline for Engagement
The 2023 proposed AFFH rule establishes a sequential timeline for program participants to engage with the AFFH process.
Consolidated Equity Plans are due every five years, with a staggered start date based on the size of grant funds.
- For program participants receiving $100 million or more in grant funds starting in 2024, the first Equity Plan must be submitted by 24 months after the proposed rule’s effective date or 365 days prior to the date for which a new consolidated plan is due (whichever is earlier).
- For program participants receiving between $30 million and $99 million in grant funds starting in 2025, the first Equity Plan must be submitted no later than 365 days prior to the date for which a new consolidated plan is due.
- For program participants receiving between $1 million and $29 million in grant funds starting in 2026, the first Equity Plan must be submitted no later than 365 days prior to the date for which a new consolidated plan is due.
- For program participants receiving less than $1 million in grant funds starting in 2027, the first Equity Plan must be submitted no later than 365 days prior to the date for which a new consolidated plan is due.
For Public Housing Agencies, Equity Plans are due every 5 years, with a staggered start date based on the number of public housing units and vouchers.
- For PHAs with 50,000 or more public housing units and vouchers, the first Equity Plan must be submitted by 24 months after the proposed rule’s effective date or 365 days prior to the date for which a new five-year plan is due following the start of the fiscal year that begins in January 2024, whichever is earlier.
- For each PHA with 10,000–49,999 public housing units and vouchers, the first Equity Plan must be submitted no later than 365 days prior to the date for which a new five-year plan is due following the start of the fiscal year that begins in January 2025.
- For each PHA with 1,000–9,999 public housing units and vouchers or PHAs that operate statewide, the first Equity Plan must be submitted no later than 365 days prior to the date for which a new five-year plan is due following the start of the fiscal year that begins in January 2026.
- For each PHA with less than 1,000 public housing units and vouchers, the first Equity Plan shall be submitted no later than 365 days prior to the date for which a new 5-year plan is due following the start of the fiscal year that begins in January 2027.
Within 100 calendar days after HUD receives the Equity Plan, HUD will either accept or reject the plan; if HUD rejects the plan, HUD will inform the program participant the reasons why and actions they may take to resolve the nonacceptance.
Transparency, Oversight, and Accountability
New opportunities for transparency, oversight, and accountability are included through the 2023 proposed AFFH rule.
- Program participants will make drafts of the Equity Plan available for purposes of community engagement and HUD will publish submitted Equity Plans on a website for public access.
- HUD will accept information from the public during its review of the submitted Equity Plan.
- HUD will require annual progress evaluations regarding progress made on each goal.
- Failure to have an accepted Equity Plan at the time of the consolidated plan or PHA plan (or special assurances that the program participant will submit its Equity Plan by a specified date) will lead to the disapproval of a consolidated plan or PHA plan, and failure to comply with special assurances will jeopardize funding.
- Complaints may be submitted to HUD by an individual, association, or other organization that alleges that a program participant has failed to comply with their obligation to adhere to the AFFH rule. The responsible civil rights official will investigate complaints and may periodically conduct reviews of program participants to ascertain whether there has been a failure to comply with the program participant’s obligation to affirmatively further fair housing under the Fair Housing Act.
- Proposed regulatory provisions relating to the filing and investigation of complaints and HUD’s procedures for obtaining compliance are consistent with the oversight and enforcement mechanisms that exist for other federal civil rights statutes that HUD implements.
Housing Futures Platform
Overall, we recommend that within your messaging and communication that you take an approach that advocates for everyone to have a safe, stable place to call home. PolicyLink has created a Housing Futures Platform to help us all pursue a strong AFFH rule to support just housing futures. This platform can also help guide your writing process by incorporating some of the following points into your comment.
- Communities most affected by disinvestment should shape our housing futures. Communities that have been systematically denied opportunities for fair housing over generations should have a seat at the table when designing new housing policies and investments, and they should be able to hold government accountable for its actions.
- Protect and prioritize renters and homeowners at risk of displacement. Bolstering renter and homeowner protections against displacement and eviction is critical to building community and family health and stability.
- Ensure freedom from housing discrimination. No matter your race, class, disability status, or religion, everyone should have a safe, stable home.
- Expand opportunities and housing options for those in disinvested neighborhoods. New investments can open opportunities for residents of disinvested neighborhoods to access good schools, jobs, transportation, and other public services––and ultimately offer them expanded housing options.
- Build a future where all neighborhoods allow communities to thrive. Today, a person’s zip code strongly influences the quality of life they can expect. By directing our public funds to neighborhoods that have faced generations of divestment, we can build a future where people in all zip codes can thrive.
Uplift Equity in Your Comments
One of the most important elements that we encourage you to write about and include in your comments is the need to center and pursue equity within what will become the final AFFH rule. These are questions that we hope you will use when evaluating the current draft of the AFFH rule and your own comment’s focus on uplifting equity concerns. Scroll through some of these equity considerations that we have laid out below. We hope you will use these prompts when evaluating the proposed AFFH rule and even when drafting your own comments.
Tips for Organizations
While comments can be provided in support of or in opposition to aspects of the rule, commenters should focus on specific goals and viewpoints they would like to communicate in their comments through specific policy options. A strong comment can have many components, but there are 4 key ones that should be included:
- Captivating and persuasive introduction
- Concise overview
- Clear position in support of or against the strength of the rule with robust evidence supporting those major concerns
- Clear flow to the discussion of concerns regarding the proposed federal rule
Your comment can be as short or as long as you need to get your main points across. But, no matter the length, ensuring that your points are made clearly, with enough robust evidence and viable alternative suggestions that clearly help the reader understand where you stand on the proposed rule’s strength is of the utmost importance. Here's an example:
Your comment should be addressed to:
Office of General Counsel
Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street SW, Room 10276
Washington, DC 20410-0500
Adding in an address is a fairly uniform requirement for all comments, especially if you decide to mail, fax, or email your comment. If this is the case, be sure to check important addresses related to the rule.v However, if you decide to submit your comment through an online portal, the address may not be necessary, but be sure to identify the Regulations Division and Department of Housing and Urban Development as this may be crucial for identifying the rule on which you are commenting and where it goes for review. More information on how to submit your comment can be found in the section entitled “How and Where to Submit Your Comment.”
You should be sure to add the docket number and the topic of the rule for identification. The AFFH rule will have the following docket number: Re: Docket No. FR-6250-P-01, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing
Think of this as a barcode for your comment—you want to make sure federal government staff can see that your comment is in regard to the AFFH rule and not another rule that is also receiving comments. It is best practice to also bold this docket number identifier and subject of your comment so that it is easily seen.
While the greeting is not absolutely necessary, sometimes it is worth having to support the flow of your comments. Options include “Dear Madam/Sir” or “To Whom It May Concern.” Do not spend too much time deciphering the best greeting. Simply starting your comment and writing down your thoughts is most important here!
Several key elements must be integrated within the introduction. The introduction first and foremost is an opportune moment to introduce yourself or the organization you represent.
If you are writing from an organization, provide some information on your mission and the type of work you do.
If you are writing individually, introduce yourself with a first name, pseudonym, or as a “resident” and provide your credentials or experiences with local housing issues that will help readers understand your background and perspective for what you will cover. You can continue to the section of this toolkit titled, “Writing as an Individual,” to help you with your writing.
When you are putting forward your reaction to the rule, whether you are in agreement or disagreement with how the rule is currently presented, you should provide information on why you agree or disagree. During this section you can also bring forward HUD’s mission and discuss how you feel the proposed rule fits or does not fit in with their stated mission.
The overview of a comment allows you to concisely package all of your main points into the beginning of your comment. This section should not be too long (a paragraph or two at the most) because it should give readers a brief opportunity to understand what your position is on the strength of the rule to pursue equity, what your major concerns are, and the alternatives you propose. This overview should serve as the top-line points you want a reviewer to take away from your comment.
Introduce your location or your scope of work
It will be helpful for reviewers of comments to understand what part of your life experiences or work informs the positions you take in your comment. Depending on the scope of your work, if you are writing on behalf of a community-based organization, you should take some time to provide two to three sentences about the barriers to fair housing and the opportunity you see within your community. Be sure to provide information and cite your data sources.
Some possible topics to write about include the following:
- Access/proximity to jobs
- Availability of affordable housing across housing tenure types
- Concentrated poverty
- Discrimination based on a previous arrest record
- Environmental injustice or racism
- Eviction rates
- High unemployment
- Housing accessible to community members with disabilities
- Information about disparate achievement gaps from racially concentrated areas of poverty
- Information on climate resiliency
- Racial/ethnic segregation
- Transportation inequities (i.e., access to public transportation)
In this same section, write a quick account of your reaction to the rule, what you believe is addressed well, and the concerns you are going to address in the rest of your comment. For example:
- Does the rule provide enough guidance to jurisdictions to create achievable AFFH goals or metrics?
- Does the rule prioritize enough areas for local knowledge of AFFH issues to be incorporated?
- Does the rule provide community engagement and participation mechanisms for local knowledge to inform future community development?
- Does the rule have strong and realistic enforcement mechanisms?
- Does the rule pay enough attention to combating racial inequities and other inequities experienced by members of protected classes (race, national origin, sex, religion, color, disability, and familial status)?
Reaction to the Rule, Concerns and Recommendations, Conclusion
Communicate your stance on the strength of key pieces of the proposed rule to advance equitable housing futures.
Provide a rationale (with cited evidence) for why you are for or against the strength of any element of the draft rule.
Offer suggestions for improvement or provide perspectives on the pros and cons to elements of the rule. This is a critical section to include because constructive comments to improve the rule will matter substantially to the reviewers and policymakers at HUD.
When you are putting forward your reaction to the rule, whether you are in agreement or disagreement with how the rule is currently presented, you should provide information on why you agree or disagree. You should then aim to support your claims for or against the current rule with evidence from quantitative and qualitative data sources, academic studies, reports, newspaper articles, and the experiences of people in your community or people whom you work with or serve. Be sure to also communicate why the research is important to consider in relation to the AFFH rule when discussing the evidence you put forward. During this section, you can also bring forward HUD’s mission and discuss how you feel the proposed rule fits or does not fit in with their stated mission.
“HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business.”
Finally, if you disagree with the strength of all, or parts, of the AFFH rule as drafted, you should offer your suggestions and policy options for HUD to integrate into the new final AFFH rule. However, if you are unsure of what alternatives to provide within your comment, simply providing your perspective on the benefits and limitations of other possible options in a discussion can also be useful. Here's an example:
Tips for Individuals
You may be writing as an individual instead of as a part of an organization. If that is the case, we recommend that you write your reactions to the new rule in a way that reflects your personal experiences and the ways existing inequities or housing justice solutions have impacted you and your community. Ultimately, writing as an individual allows you to evoke your personal experiences with housing instability, or in the lives of others in your community, and the ways you think HUD can prioritize ensuring fair housing. Below you can find guidance on writing your comment as an individual.
Greeting and Introduction
You can keep the same format for a greeting and opening as outlined above for an organization, but the introduction will need to change slightly to incorporate your personal experiences. First, be sure that you give enough detail on the place that you call home—describe where is it and how long have you lived there. Next, provide some insight into who you are as a person and as a member of your community—explain what about your identity motivated you to comment on the AFFH draft rule. This is where you can bring in how housing inequities in your community have affected you, your loved ones, or your neighbors directly. Provide examples from your life if you are comfortable doing so.
Reactions, Recommendations, and Projected Community Impact
Reactions and Recommendations
Based on the comment itself, formulate your reaction to the draft rule. Which parts need to be strengthened, and why? You do not have to read the full document if you do not have the time, but we encourage you to at least review some high-level summaries to inform your perspectives and recommendations.
Do you think this rule does enough to help localities pursue fair, affordable, and accessible housing in your community?
What recommendations do you have?
What perspectives do you think are missing from the proposed AFFH rule?
Does the proposed AFFH rule align with your own personal or community values?
Be sure that you are especially clear in this section because it will hold the main arguments that will help inform HUD’s decisions on the rule. If you are citing any research or data, be sure to cite your sources.
Projected Community Impact
Finally, if you work in your locality in a professional capacity as an organizer or volunteer with a community-based organization, or you just care about your community, be sure to mention the history of your work to support your community. Ultimately, providing this background will help to build credibility for how you believe the rule will affect you, your loved ones, and other community members. Clearly explain how you think the rule would impact your community and provide information to back up your claim through examples or data.
How, Where, and by What Date to Submit Your Comments
Submit electronically using the Regulations.gov website.
Locate the AFFH docket by using the search bar at the top of the page and the docket number, or scroll down to see “What’s Trending.” Once you access the AFFH comment page, select the blue “Comment” button in the left side of the page. This will direct you to a page where you can either copy and paste or attach your comment. It is highly recommended that you upload your comment as a file. Note: For copied and pasted comments, you are limited to 5,000 characters, and hyperlinked text does not remain hyperlinked when pasted. For attached comments, files cannot exceed 10 MB. Valid file types are .bmp, .docx, .gif, .jpeg, .jpg, .pdf, .png, .pptx, .rtf, .sgml, .tif, .tiff, .txt, .wpd, .xlsx, and .xml.
Note: Regulations.gov is the Federal Rulemaking Portal through which over 300 agencies invite public comments. After the comment period ends, HUD will post all comments received on this site so that the public can find and read all comments submitted regarding the rule.
Submit your written comment via postal mail.
Not everyone who wants to comment will have access to the internet, so mailing comments is an option. However, of the two possible submission pathways, this is the least recommended. Those who wish to submit a public comment by mail should address their comment to:
Regulations Division, Office of General Counsel
Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street SW, Room 10276
Washington, DC 20410
Note: HUD prefers electronic submission because it allows the commenter maximum time to prepare and submit a comment, ensures timely receipt by HUD, and enables HUD to make comments immediately available to the public.
Public comments are due 60 days after proposed rules are published in the Federal Register. The 2023 proposed AFFH rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register. Please check here for regular updates on the proposed AFFH Rule and public comment timeline. We will update this section with the deadlines for submitting electronic and written comments once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register and the 60-day comment period begins. While we wait for the proposed AFFH rule to be published, you can start reading the proposed rule and sketching out your comments.
AFFH Matters for Equity Advocates in All Policy Areas
Ensuring a robust AFFH rule will require more than just the knowledge and expertise of fair housing advocates—it calls for the collective voice of all whose work relates to creating geographies of opportunity. We encourage individuals and organizations working on the following issues to join in submitting public comments on the AFFH rule: housing, education, transportation, environmental justice and climate equity, workforce development and economic equity, community safety and justice, and public health. Housing is the cornerstone for an abundance of outcomes—for that reason, we all share an interest in creating a strong AFFH rule.
Although the AFFH rule is a federal rule, it is implemented regionally and locally. The AFFH rule supports integrated assessment and planning approaches that can more closely examine and address patterns of disinvestment and barriers to opportunity. If successfully implemented, AFFH can help align investments in transportation, education, housing, infrastructure, public health, and economic development to foster access to opportunity for those currently being left out, and undo the harmful impacts of disinvestment in Black and Brown communities. Taking the time to help shape the AFFH rule will have implications for your local AFFH planning process and develop assessment tools that can be used as an ongoing resource to support equitable community development.
Comments from people and organizations working outside of the housing field should lead with the need for HUD to require the use of a local planning process or assessment tool that mandates an analysis of disparities in access to key opportunities for protected classes, including access to high-quality jobs and education. A local planning process or assessment tool is crucial because it will act as a mechanism for cross-sector partners to advance meaningful work related to fair housing at the local level (e.g., advance anti-displacement policies for renters when new investments are made in public transportation). The full comment guide will contain a sector by sector breakdown on how to make your comment count, no matter what field you work in.