One thing you’ll notice when you delve into the housing world is we love our acronyms, and there’s one in particular that we are particularly fond of in the fair housing movement: AFFH.One thing you’ll notice when you delve into the housing world is we love our acronyms, and there’s one in particular that we are particularly fond of in the fair housing movement: AFFH.
It’s also one that neither rolls off the tongue particularly well nor is widely understood; yet AFFH – Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing – plays a vital role in ensuring equal access to housing opportunity and creating open and inclusive communities.
AFFH also currently is at the center of a national conversation to which we all should be paying close attention.
The Fair Housing Act was passed 50 years ago in April 1968. The act made it illegal to discriminate in housing against an individual based on his/her/their membership in a protected class – originally meaning race, color, religion and national origin, and further amended to include sex, familial status, and disability.
This made illegal the rampant individual acts of housing discrimination of the early- and mid-20th century, but the original act 50 years ago also included the concept of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH). AFFH intended to go beyond the individual acts of discrimination and set forth requirements for recipients of federal funds to take affirmative steps to end segregation in their communities.
Despite being included in the original Fair Housing Act of 1968, it wasn’t until 2015 that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a set of final regulations defining the intent of AFFH for those recipients of federal funds.
In the 2015 AFFH regulations, HUD noted that the purpose of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulations is to “provide program participants with an effective planning approach to aid program participants in taking meaningful actions to overcome historic patterns of segregation, promote fair housing choice, and foster inclusive communities that are free from discrimination.”
This statement in the original final regulations makes clear the intent of AFFH is to ensure accountable changes to segregation in communities. Among the vital outcomes of the 2015 final regulations was the requirement for the creation of an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH), a data-driven and community-engaged process designed to create measurable outcomes toward integrating communities.
However, earlier this year, HUD suspended the requirement for local jurisdictions to complete this planning process and reverted to a previous planning process, a report called an Analysis of Impediments (AI). In writing about HUD’s action, an MIT professor and student who compared the AFH and AI processes, noted “compared to the old AIs, the new AFHs include a dramatic increase in the number of goals, in the ambition of those goals, and in the share of goals with metrics the public can use to hold municipalities accountable to their commitments.” (“Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: HUD Suspends AFFH Rule that was Delivering Meaningful Civil Rights Progress,” Poverty & Race Research Action Council)
On August 16, HUD opened for comment the final AFFH regulations. In the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, which you can access at the link below, HUD is seeking comment on changes to the regulations that will minimize regulatory burden; focus on positive results; increase housing choice through greater housing supply; provide for greater local control; and efficiently use HUD resources.
It is an important moment for HUD to hear from supporters of the fair housing movement about the importance of this federal mandate for accountable measures to create open and inclusive communities.
You can read HUD’s full advance notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register in this PDF document 
Please submit comments on the AFFH regulations through Oct. 15th at here