Weekly update from the National Housing Conference
August 15, 2018
President's Message I By David M. Dworkin

This month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) on amending its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulations. This is the first step in a regulatory process that will likely lead to a new set of regulations on this important civil rights legislation. 

AFFH is a legal requirement that federal agencies and federal grantees further the purposes of the Fair Housing Act. This obligation to affirmatively further fair housing has been mandated by the Fair Housing Act since 1968. As provided in the current rule, AFFH means “taking meaningful actions, in addition to combating discrimination, that overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics.” Last January, HUD suspended the obligation of local governments to file plans under the 2015 regulation and, in May, withdrew an assessment tool that local governments could use in preparing those plans. In his statement announcing the ANPR, HUD Sec. Ben Carson specified that “HUD believes very deeply in the purposes of the Fair Housing Act and that states, local governments and public housing authorities further fair housing choice.” But he added that HUD’s 2015 rule “often dictated unworkable requirements and actually impeded the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing.” At the heart of the matter is how we measure what local governments do to “affirmatively further fair housing” as is required in the Fair Housing Act.

Unfortunately, the promise of the Fair Housing Act has never been realized. To make matters worse, the Great Recession and its aftermath wiped out nearly all of the modest gains made in the previous four decades. One need look no further than San Francisco, one of the most “progressive” communities in the nation, to see how far we have to go. Local ordinances and zoning make it impossible to create affordable housing in most of the “high opportunity” neighborhoods in the city. San Francisco is hardly alone. The AFFH rule was meant to address this, but some have suggested that its approach has made this important work more difficult.

NHC has been at the forefront of affordable housing advocacy since it was founded in 1931. We were also one of the leading proponents of the Fair Housing Act in 1968. Our members have broad and deep experience investing in, developing, building and managing affordable housing throughout the country. Many of those members are deeply concerned about the intent of the Trump administration’s AFFH initiative. Others have noted that the 2015 regulation is in need of improvement. The fact that the president has a lifelong reputation as an opponent of fair housing gives all of us great concern.

NHC’s Policy Committee will work with all interested members to craft our response to the AFFH ANPR and offer HUD our collective experience on what elements of the AFFH must be preserved and which – if any – elements require revision. I hope that you will join us in this important effort. If you are not currently a member and would like to be involved, please contact Amanda Mitchell so you can join today.

David M. Dworkin
President and CEO
News from Washington I By Kaitlyn Snyder
NHC submits Opportunity Zones comment letter

NHC submitted our comment letter  to the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) on Opportunity Zones. The letter was developed with NHC’s Opportunity Zones Task Force. We anticipate that Treasury will release a formal rule in the Federal Register in the coming weeks and plan to re-engage with the Task Force to submit our comments in response to the rule. If you would like to join the task force, please email Kaitlyn Snyder.
Enterprise to host Opportunity Zones webinar

Join Enterprise Community Partners on Aug. 28 from 1-2:30 p.m. EDT for its webinar, “Opportunity Zones: The latest insights from across the nation.” Along with presenters from Enterprise, Katie Kramer of the Council of Development Finance Agencies will discuss which organizations are launching Opportunity Funds and their strategy for creating a platform of funds, updates from the Hill, the latest on additional guidance from the IRS and how cities, regions and states are planning for investment and engaging local stakeholders. Register here
HFSC subcommittee field hearing in Kentucky

The Housing and Insurance Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) will hold a field hearing on Aug. 16 at 9 a.m. EDT in Lexington, Kentucky on “the role of federal housing and community development programs to support opioid and substance use disorder treatment and recovery.” The hearing will likely cover Rep. Andy Barr’s (R-Ky.) legislation, the THRIVE Act ( H.R. 5735), which would set aside vouchers to be used in a supportive housing demonstration program for individuals recovering from an opioid or other substance-use disorder.
Register for the September Restoring Neighborhoods Task Force webinar

Join NHC on Sept. 5 from 2-3 p.m. EDT for a webinar on JPMorgan Chase’s partnership with Detroit Future City on the Detroit Neighborhood Housing Compact. The Detroit Neighborhood Housing Compact is a cross-sector stakeholder group focused on strengthening the single-family housing market in Detroit neighborhoods, including both for-sale and for-rent market segments. Register here
Sen. Booker introduces federal inclusive zoning legislation, Tenant Protection Act

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) recently introduced S. 3342, which would require Community Development Block Grant recipients to develop a strategy to support inclusive zoning policies. Sen. Booker also introduced the Tenant Protection Act ( S. 1758), which would prohibit consumer reporting agencies from reporting on landlord-tenant court or other housing court records if the records are less than three years old or in the appeal process. They would also be barred from reporting on any case unless it resulted in a judgment of possession. 
NHFA releases sample Disparate Impact rule comment letter and sign-on letter

The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) has prepared a sample comment letter and a sign-on letter in response to HUD’s advanced notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comments regarding possible amendments to the Fair Housing Act Disparate Impact Standard.
Comcast expands Internet Essentials to low-income veterans

On Aug. 13, Comcast Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer David Cohen announced that Comcast is expanding its Internet Essentials program to low-income veterans within its service footprint. Comcast’s Internet Essentials program offers 15 megabits of internet service for $9.95 a month and a desktop or laptop computer for $149.99. Comcast also announced a revamped Learning Center to help teach digital literacy. Through its Internet Essentials program, Comcast has connected six million low-income households to the internet. Nationally, only 47 percent of households below the poverty line have access to the internet, compared to 95 percent of households making more than $150,000.
Our Homes, Our Votes webinar series  

The Our Homes, Our Votes campaign continues its six-part webinar series on nonpartisan voter engagement. The last webinar will be held from 3-4 p.m. EDT on Aug. 21. Register here. The slides and recording from the first webinar, “Our Homes, Our Votes: An Introduction and an Exploration of Legal Considerations,” are available here. The slides and recording from the second webinar, “Building the Base: Voter Registration of Low Income Renters and Their Allies,” are available here. The slides and recording from the third webinar, “The Importance of Voter Lists! A Key Tool for Successful Mobilization,” are available here. The slides and recording from the fourth webinar, “An Informed Debate: Effectively Engaging Candidates while Remaining Non-Partisan,” are available here. The slides and recording from the fifth webinar, “I Vote for More Affordable Homes! Educating Voters Before Election Day,” will be available here.
The National Housing Conference has been defending the American Home since 1931. Everyone in America should have equal opportunity to live in a quality, affordable home in a thriving community. NHC convenes and collaborates with our diverse membership and the broader housing and community development sectors to advance our policy, research and communications initiatives to effect positive change at the federal, state and local levels. Politically diverse and nonpartisan, NHC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Defending our American Home since 1931
Copyright © 2018. All Rights Reserved.