Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: Facing the Dilemmas

By Paul Dribin

For 30 years Paul Dribin worked with the Department of Housing and Urban Development in which he assumed leadership positions in the fields of Public Housing, Housing Management, Housing Development, and Section 8 housing. While working for HUD in St. Louis, his most notable projects included the Chase Park Plaza, the demolition and redevelopment of the Laclede Town area, the Darst Webbe Hope VI project, and the Vaughn-Murphy Park mixed income development. Since retiring from HUD, Mr. Dribin has led Dribin Consulting, a company specializing in providing FHA and other financing for multifamily projects. Dribin Consulting also performs grant writing, provides services to troubled multifamily housing, and participates as a member of a team administering the State of Missouri Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Mr. Dribin is married, the father of two adult children, and resides in Webster Groves.

Some hugely important events have taken place in recent months that could transform the affordable housing industry. First, the Supreme Court upheld the concept of Disparate Impact in the decision Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project. This decision confirmed that discrimination in housing does not have to be intentional but could be a result of subtle covert actions. The case involved a Low Income Housing Tax Credit Project.

Second, HUD has issued perhaps their most significant regulations ever on the subject of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. These regulations provide specific guidance on compliance with Title VI of the Fair Housing Act of 1964 which in essence states that federal funds have to be used in a manner to affirmatively further fair housing. HUD has of course been lax in implementing this law. While communities have to submit Consolidated Plans and other planning documents which discuss the use of HUD funds, efforts have been far from serious in requiring strict compliance with the statute.

The regulations which are quite lengthy spell out a very detailed analysis of statistical data indicated where there is a relative lack of affordable housing. HUD will require very major efforts to put resources including affordable housing into areas where it is lacking. HUD has developed an assessment tool to help with this effort. The regulations suggest that HUD resources should not be concentrated in areas of minority populations and in economically deprived areas. All HUD programs are affected and the LIHTC Program is also affected as a result of the court decision and requirement to comply with the consolidated plan.

Focusing affordable housing in more affluent neighborhoods is important not only for civil rights issues but research has shown that low income families who move outside traditional areas of poverty achieve more success, including higher achievement by the students in school. HUD should be applauded for finally implementing a law that has been in effect for over 50 years. Nevertheless, there are important issues and dilemmas that need to be faced:

1. Many organizations have been doing important and difficult work involving community development in economically and racially impacted areas. Do these rulings mean these efforts cannot proceed? Are central cities being written off?

2. Cities and housing authorities have limited jurisdictions. They will be required to submit plans. What impact will these plans have if they cannot cross jurisdictional lines? Cooperative regional plans are encouraged but not mandated.

3. Will zoning laws be set aside?

4. Suburban communities will strongly resist. Potential developments will be tied up in litigation. Land costs will be significantly higher without program resources to cover these costs. Will this mean the end of affordable housing development?

My concerns may seem alarmist and perhaps there is a moderate approach to these regulations. An approach could be that priority is given to housing developments outside traditional areas of concentration but that inner city areas can be developed if part of a comprehensive development plan.
Housing practitioners need to stay informed on the issues.

You can follow further discussion of this issue on my blog, Affordable Housing from P

Articles in “From the Field” represent the opinions of the author only and do not represent the views of the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis or the University of Missouri- St. Louis.