The Census Bureau, in conjunction with researchers from Harvard and Brown Universities, this week published a national “opportunity atlas” that tracks outcomes for children in adulthood based on nationwide data. The atlas can be used to find, down to the census tract level, information on positive and negative outcomes for children, with information such as earnings, incarceration rates by parental income, race and gender. See also the New York Times discussion of how the Seattle Housing Authority is using the atlas to allow higher housing choice voucher rents in certain neighborhoods.  Pretty interesting data as we start to implement Opportunity Zones, revise the affirmatively furthering fair housing rule, consider small area FMRs for the voucher program, and plan for new affordable housing developments.

A pending lawsuit against HUD challenging its suspension of its local tool for affirmative fair housing assessments has been dismissed.  Earlier this year, HUD first extended the deadlines for, then withdrew, its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Local Government Assessment Tool, which had been the subject of some controversy related to the reporting burden associated with the tool and other criticisms.  The Local Government Assessment Tool is to be used by cities and other entities that receive Community Development Block Grants, HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Emergency Solutions Grants, or Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS formula funding from HUD.  Advocates challenged HUD’s actions in a lawsuit.

Last week, the court granted HUD’s motion to dismiss the case. The court found that HUD had authority to withdraw the tool.

The dismissal comes as HUD has reopened the 2015 AFFH regulations for public comment.  Comments are due October 15, 2018, and we encourage all who are interested in this topic to submit comments.

 

As indicated earlier this week, HUD is seeking comments to inform revisions to its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule. We have been waiting for official publication of the advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) in the Federal Register to determine when these comments will be due. HUD today published the ANPR.  We now know comments are due October 15, 2018.

Yesterday, HUD announced that it intends to amend its 2015 regulations on affirmatively furthering fair housing, or AFFH. HUD is giving the public 60 days from publication of its advance notice of proposed rulemaking to provide comments on the current AFFH rule.  HUD seeks comments that will help it revise the rule to:

  • “Minimize regulatory burden” while more effectively fulfilling the AFFH requirements
  • Focus on “positive results” rather than “analysis of community characteristics”
  • Allow “greater local control and innovation”
  • Increase housing choice, including greater supply
  • “More efficiently use HUD resources”

This announcement comes after HUD first extended the deadlines for, then withdrew, its AFFH Local Government Assessment Tool, which had been the subject of some controversy related to the reporting burden associated with the tool and other criticisms.  The Local Government Assessment Tool is to be used by cities and other entities that receive Community Development Block Grants, HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Emergency Solutions Grants, or Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS formula funding from HUD.  HUD’s announcement also comes while HUD is being sued by advocacy groups related to these actions regarding the assessment tool.

The 2015 AFFH rule contemplated that public housing authorities, states and insular areas would also use a different tool to conduct assessments of fair housing, but those tools have not yet been finalized.

These actions by HUD do not eliminate the Fair Housing Act’s requirements for recipients of HUD funds to affirmatively further fair housing. Indeed, most recipients certify that they further fair housing in connection with various applications for HUD funds and other HUD submissions. Instead, HUD’s actions return most entities to the requirements in effect prior to the 2015 rule, in which they must conduct an analysis of impediments rather than use an assessment tool.

We are working on comments on the AFFH rule, and encourage any entities impacted by the AFFH rule to consider commenting on it.

Today, HUD issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking requesting public comments to its 2013 Final Rule which implemented the Fair Housing Act’s disparate impact standard. HUD indicates this rulemaking is in light of the Supreme Court’s  2015 decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., which held that disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act. HUD is reexamining its rule to determine if any changes may be necessary.

HUD is specifically requesting public comments to the following six questions:

  1. Does the Disparate Impact Rule’s burden of proof standard for each of the three steps of its burden-shifting framework clearly assign burdens of production and burdens of persuasion, and are such burdens appropriately assigned?
  2. Are the second and third steps of the Disparate Impact Rule’s burden-shifting framework sufficient to ensure that only challenged practices that are artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers result in disparate impact liability?
  3. Does the Disparate Impacts Rule’s definition of “discriminatory effect” in 24 CFR 100.500(a) in conjunction with the burden of proof for stating a prima facie case in 24 CFR 100.500(c) strike the proper balance in encouraging legal action for legitimate disparate impact cases while avoiding unmeritorious claims?
  4. Should the Disparate Impact Rule be amended to clarify the causality standard for stating a prima facie case under Inclusive Communities and other Supreme Court rulings?
  5. Should the Disparate Impact Rule provide defenses or safe harbors to claims of disparate impact liability (such as, for example, when another federal statute substantially limits a defendant’s discretion or another federal statute requires adherence to state statutes)?
  6. Are there revisions to the Disparate Impact Rule that could add to the clarity, reduce uncertainty, decrease regulatory burden, or otherwise assist the regulated entities and other members of the public in determining what is lawful?

The 60 day comment period ends on August 20, 2018. Interested persons can submit comments to HUD electronically through http://www.regulations.gov or by mail.

 Ballard has been closely monitoring potential changes to the Rule and will continue to do so. We will also continue to work with clients on issues pertaining to the Rule.

This week, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) announced a settlement of a lawsuit against Travelers Indemnity Company in which it alleged that Travelers engaged in discriminatory conduct in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).  NFHA accused Travelers of refusing to provide habitational insurance policies to District of Columbia landlords that rent to tenants who use Housing Choice Vouchers.  NFHA claimed that this policy had a disparate impact on African-Americans and women and served no legitimate business purpose. It was also alleged that the practice violated local fair housing law.

Among other provisions of the settlement, Travelers has agreed not to ask about the source of income of residents at D.C. properties that it considers insuring.  We would note that source of income discrimination is prohibited in the District of Columbia, but is not a federally protected class.

Our friends at the Ballard Consumer Finance Monitor have posted additional information about the lawsuit and the settlement.

Today, HUD issued a notice extending until after October 31, 2020, the deadline for cities and other participating jurisdictions to submit assessments of fair housing (AFH), the new reporting and assessment tool required by HUD’s 2015 affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH) rule. Some participating jurisdictions have already submitted AFHs, and the New York Times reports today that HUD says it will stop reviewing them.  Per a prior notice from HUD, AFHs for public housing authorities, states and insular areas have not yet been due.

Today’s notice reminds HUD recipients that they still must affirmatively further fair housing, but we cannot help but wonder if this is the Trump administration’s attempt to start rolling back the AFFH rule, which has been the subject of a fair amount of controversy since its publication.  The AFHs have also raised concerns for many, including PHAs concerned about the unfunded reporting burden and the potential for enforcement if goals outlined in the AFHs are not met.

On Thursday, November 9, 2017 HUD hosted a live webinar to provide an overview and discussion of the recently developed Completion Certification and the RAD Minority Concentration Analysis Tool. A video of the webinar can be found here along with slides from the presentation.

Construction Completion Certification. Once construction or rehabilitiation is complete, Section 1.13(B)(6) of the RAD Notice requires that Owners submit a completion certification including a cost certification and other information about compliance with requirements of the RCC.  The Office of Recapitalization recently created a module on the RAD Resource Desk entitled the “Rehab/Construction Completion Milestone” and also posted instructions on completing the certification.   Submitting the Completion of the Rehab/Construction Milestone information should be done no later than 45 days after completion of the work. The new module requires owners to provide information related to the completion of work, residents’ right of return, and Section 3 hiring achieved.  Owners should become familiar with the requested information regardless of where they are in the RAD conversion process to understand what data will be needed to complete the certification, including some information that dates back to the issuance of the CHAP.

RAD Minority Concentration Analysis Mapping Tool. HUD has released the RAD Minority Concentration Analysis Tool (the “Tool”) in order to help housing authorities assess whether a proposed site for new construction under RAD may be in an area of minority concentration.  The Tool will create a report of data required by the RAD Fair Housing and Civil Rights Notice (H/PIH 2016-17), including minority data from the Census for: 1) the Housing Market Area; 2) the census tract; 3) the area comprised of the census tract of the site together with all adjacent census tracts; and 4) an alternative geography if proposed by the housing authority. The Tool is available at https://www.huduser.gov/portal/maps/rad/home.html and requires creating a user account.

The new HUD administration has been pretty quiet on the regulatory front, with only a handful of regulations and notices issued since January. That may change soon. HUD is hard at work identifying regulatory changes that might be made to comply with Executive Order (EO) 13771, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.”  The EO requires that two regulations be eliminated for each new regulation issued and that the overall costs of new regulations, including repealed regulations, this year be zero. In February 2017, the Office of Management and Budget issued guidance for implementing the EO, and now HUD  seeks the public’s input into which regulations it could modify or eliminate.  Recommendations are due June 14, 2017.

Over the years, a number of groups and agencies have submitted recommendations to HUD for regulatory reform, and this is a good time to reconsider those proposals.  Since the request is for modifications to regulations, not statutes, recommendations should focus upon regulations and guidance that is not required by federal law.  Areas Ballard Spahr has been thinking about recommending changes include:

  • Better ways to implement prevailing wage rate requirements at mixed-use projects where the prevailing wages need not be paid for the full project;
  • Streamlining of the demolition/disposition process for public housing;
  • Modifications to site and neighborhood standards;
  • Modification of the public housing asset management rules;
  • Requirements for designation of public housing as elderly-only; and
  • Thoughtful modifications to affirmatively furthering fair housing requirements.

Comments on the following HUD and housing related guidance are due this month.

  • HOTMA implementation for Section 8 Voucher Programs – Due March 20, 2017

On January 18, 2017, HUD issued a proposed rule to implement certain sections of the Housing Opportunities through Modernization Act of 2016 (HOTMA) that affect the tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) and Project-Based Voucher (PBV) programs. Among other changes, the proposed rule amends the definition of public housing authority (PHA) owned housing, and institutes new provisions regarding housing quality inspection requirements for both the HCV and PBV programs. HUD is seeking public comment on a variety of questions surrounding the implementation requirements and future changes of both programs.

Comments may be submitted to HUD  electronically at www.regulations.gov (Docket No. FR-5976-N-03) or by mail to the Regulations Division, Office of General Counsel, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street SW., Room 10276, Washington, DC 20410-0500.

  • Moving to Work (MTW) Demonstration Operations Notice – Due March 24, 2017

As noted in our previous blog post, HUD is soliciting comments to its Operations Notice for the expansion of the MTW Program. The full list of questions for which HUD seeks public comment is listed in Appendix C of the Notice. Comments can be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov (Docket No. FR-5994-N-01)  or by mail to the same address noted above.

  • DOJ Proposed Rule amending Section 504 Regulations – Due March 20, 2017

On January 19, 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to revise its regulations at 28 CFR Part 42 that implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability in all programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. Key revisions include amending the interpretation of the applicable definition of  “disability”;  updating accessibility standards for new construction and alteration of buildings and other facilities; and editing various provisions and terminology to promote consistency with judicial decisions and the Americans with Disabilities Act and related amendments.

Comments may be submitted to DOJ (1) electronically through www.regulations.gov (Docket No. OAG 154); (2) by regular mail to Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 2885, Fairfax, VA 22031-0885; or (3) by overnight, courier, or hand delivery to Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 1425 New York Avenue NW., Suite 4055, Washington, DC 20005.

The following lists additional housing news our readers may have missed recently —

  • Dr. Ben Carson Confirmed as HUD Secretary

On March 2, 2017, Dr. Ben Carson was sworn in as the 17th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. According to  HUD’s press release, Secretary Carson intends to embark on a listening tour of various HUD field offices and communities throughout the country.

  • Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 introduced in U.S. Senate

In an effort to help reform the low-income housing tax credit, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 (S. 548), along with several other Democratic and Republican co-sponsors on March 7th. The bill includes and expands upon similar legislation introduced by the Senators last year (S. 2962 and S. 3237). Visit the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition’s S. 548 advocacy page for more in-depth summaries of the bill’s provisions and comparisons between the current bill and 2016 legislation. Interested persons can also track the bill’s progress at www.congress.gov.

  • Public Housing Authorities prevail in Operating Reserves Litigation

In late January, the United States Court of Federal Claims ruled in favor of approximately 350 public housing authorities on the merits of a motion for summary judgment against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Led by housing industry groups, the complaint alleged that HUD breached its Annual Contributions Contract with the PHAs for fiscal year 2012 when the formula used for budget calculations and allocations did not property follow HUD regulations and thus reduced the operating fund subsidies the PHAs were eligible for in that year. A full copy of the Court’s decision can be accessed here.  Plaintiffs’ attorneys were advised to file a status report in February 2017 to advise how the Court should proceed with the case.