On the 54th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, HUD Underscores its Commitment and Progress Toward Advancing Fairness and Equity in Housing
April 11, 2022, marks the 54th anniversary of the enactment of the federal Fair Housing Act. On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities. The statute also directs all executive departments and agencies to administer their programs and activities relating to housing and urban development, including any Federal agency having regulatory or supervisory authority over financial institutions, in a manner affirmatively to further the purposes of the Act.
Initially, the Fair Housing Act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion and national origin. Later, the Act’s protections were expanded to include discrimination on the basis of sex, disability, and familial status. In February 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) clarified that the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
Today, under the leadership of Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, HUD continues to prioritize its commitment to strengthening fair housing protections and enforcement. In the first year of the Biden-Harris Administration, HUD’s actions included:
Fighting Housing Discrimination Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated our nation’s already severe housing crisis. HUD’s Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) has been an essential part of the federal government response. To date, HUD has made available $19.4 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to FHIP agencies working to address the unequal impact the pandemic has had on communities of color, low-income communities, and other vulnerable populations. The funding provides resources and support to victims of housing discrimination who have been most impacted by the pandemic. FHIP agencies use the funding to conduct housing education and outreach activities, as well as address fair housing inquiries, complaints, and investigations.
Protecting the LGBTQ+ Community Against Housing Discrimination. Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, regardless of who they are or whom they love. The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) continues to prioritize the implementation of fair housing protections for the LGBTQ+ community. This includes training, stakeholder engagement, updated website materials, and other activities. This past year, following HUD’s clarification that the Fair Housing Act includes protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, FHEO has seen more people than ever seek protection under the Fair Housing Act for discrimination they have faced because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Alongside its Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) and Fair Housing Assistance Program (FHAP) partners, HUD processed 235 cases alleging sex discrimination due to gender identity and sexual orientation in 2021, nearly twice as many cases than 2020.
In April 2021, HUD withdrew a previously proposed rule that would have weakened the Equal Access Rule, which ensures that all individuals - regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity - have equal access to Department programs, buildings, facilities, and other accommodations, including shelters. Ensuring people experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness have equal access to HUD programs is essential in addressing the challenges faced by transgender and gender non-conforming persons because transgender and gender non-conforming persons face enormous safety risks in shelters.
Restoring the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Requirement. In his first week in office, President Biden issued a directive specifically calling on HUD to take actions to undo historic patterns of segregation and other types of discrimination in a manner that affirmatively furthers fair housing. In response, the Department published an interim final rule (IFR) that went into effect on July 31st to restore the implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) requirement. Under the restored AFFH regulatory definition in the IFR, HUD funding recipients must regularly certify compliance with the Fair Housing Act’s AFFH requirement and commit to taking steps to remedy their fair housing issues in making such certifications. The IFR helps HUD, 3,747 public housing authorities, and 1,200 state and local government grantees in the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investments Partnerships (HOME), and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) programs fulfill their AFFH obligations under the Fair Housing Act.
HUD is consulting extensively with stakeholders during its process of designing a final rule, to more comprehensively implement the AFFH requirement.
Restoring the Discriminatory Effects Rule. In June, Secretary Fudge announced publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) entitled Reinstatement of HUD’s Discriminatory Effects Standard, which would rescind the Department’s 2020 disparate impact rule and restore the disparate impact doctrine citing that HUD believes the 2013 rule is more consistent with decades of caselaw and better effectuates the Act’s broad remedial purpose of eradicating unnecessary discriminatory practices from the housing. A final rule is forthcoming. HUD’s action was a direct response to President Biden’s executive action directing the Department to examine rules regarding disparate impact.
Withdrew the “Mixed-Status” Rule. In April 2021, HUD published a rule withdrawal that removed the previously proposed “mixed-status” rule. That rule would have led to thousands of mixed-status immigrant families that have family members who are undocumented or otherwise be deemed ineligible for public and other subsidized housing. The old proposal would have caused families throughout the country to split up or be evicted.
Fighting Disability Discrimination. The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing providers from discriminating against persons with disabilities, including refusing to make reasonable accommodations in policies or practices when such accommodations may be necessary to provide them an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling.
HUD also enforces other laws prohibiting disability discrimination to enable fair housing, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Architectural Barriers Act. Later this year, HUD plans to publish an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to solicit comments to update its requirements for federally subsidized housing, such as public housing, project-based assistance, HOME, and other programs.
Housing providers may not prohibit people with disabilities from having assistance animals that perform work or tasks, provide assistance, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities.
Launched a Whole-of-Government Plan for Wide-Ranging Reforms to Advance Equity in Home Appraisals. In March, HUD delivered the Interagency Task Force on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE) Action Plan to President Biden. The PAVE Action Plan is aimed squarely at dismantling racial bias in the home lending and appraisal process and promoting generational wealth creation through homeownership. This Action Plan, when enacted, represents the most wide-ranging set of reforms ever put forward to advance equity in the home appraisal process. The PAVE Task Force, co-chaired by Secretary Fudge and White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, is the first-of-its-kind interagency initiative to address racial bias in home appraisals and includes senior leaders from thirteen Cabinet and independent agencies and components of the Executive Office of the President.
Affirmed the Use of Special Purpose Credit Programs. More than 50 years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, access to security and wealth provided by homeownership remains persistently unequal. Part of the solution to that problem has to be for banks and others to find creative ways to extend credit to communities that desperately need it to start building equity. In December, HUD made clear that the use of certain Special Purpose Credit Programs (SPCPs) to help address inequities in barriers to credit and homeownership is lawful under the Fair Housing Act. The Special Purpose Credit Program is a tool that allows banks to meet the specific needs of these historically disadvantaged groups. On January 26, Secretary Fudge convened a virtual meeting with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Reserve, Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and National Credit Union Association to discuss HUD and partner agencies’ roles in expanding homeownership opportunities for those who have been and continue to be systemically excluded from the housing and credit markets. The group discussed future steps to encourage use of SPCPs as a means of addressing persistent disparities in access to homeownership.
Set the Stage for Increased Fair Housing and Lending Enforcement and Access. Last summer, HUD entered into a first-of-its-kind memorandum of understanding (MOU) with FHFA, marking a historic collaboration on fair housing and fair lending enforcement and oversight engagement with the FHFA-regulated entities including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks. This comprehensive effort will ensure deeper collaboration on fair housing investigations and enable data sharing to help strengthen and affirmatively further fair housing for the mortgage industry.
In September 2021, HUD and FHFA jointly announced clarifications to Freddie Mac’s policies making it clear that it will purchase mortgages secured by a property owned by an individual and rented to a group home for persons with disabilities. The clarifications follow a FHEO investigation of a mortgage lender who had refused to lend to a homeowner that was renting their property to a company that was operating a group home.