Proposed Changes to the Fair Housing Act Will Set Cities Back

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On August 19, 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a change to the Fair Housing Act’s 2013 Rule on Disparate Impact, which would make it harder for local governments to enforce fair housing.

As it stands, the rule currently allows potential victims of housing discrimination to challenge the policies or practices underlying the discriminatory outcome. By raising the burden of proof on victims of housing discrimination, the proposed change to the rule would significantly weaken enforceability of fair housing protections.

What This Means for Cities

The proposed ruling would take yet another tool out of the toolbox, making it harder for local leaders to provide quality, affordable housing for their residents.

For cities, towns, and villages, “housing” is often the single biggest factor impacting economic opportunity over which local governments can exercise influence. Housing stability is fundamental for economic mobility, job security, and health and well-being.  When residents have stable living conditions, the benefits are apparent — students do better in school and health outcomes improve, and demand for costly local emergency and human services fall.

Municipalities have both used the rule to enforce fair housing protections in the development of rental housing and homeownership and have been subject to the rule as a part of the process of revealing and addressing unexamined public policies that foster discrimination.

By raising the burden of proof, the proposed rule would significantly set back efforts by local governments to advance equity for protected classes within their communities – and to foster economic opportunity for every resident.

Moreover, the proposed rule contradicts calls to action made in NLC’s National Housing Task Force Report Homeward Bound: The Road to Affordable Housing, which urges the federal government to fix inequities in housing development and the housing finance system; and recommends local governments prioritize equitable outcomes in local housing and land use planning as an essential component for success.

Over 45,000 public comments were submitted on the proposed rule, of which less than 3000 have been processed for publishing. The comment period closed on October 18. NLC’s comments are posted on NLC’s website here. Once processed, the comments will also be available on the Regulations.gov website by searching for Comment Tracking Number: 1k3-9csf-sja8

About the Author: Michael-Wallace-small.jpgMichael Wallace is the Program Director for Community and Economic Development at the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter @MikeWallaceII.