TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal is calling on the Trump Administration to preserve a federal rule enacted three years ago to combat residential segregation and promote fair housing in local communities.
In a letter sent Monday to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Attorney General Grewal joined with other Attorneys General in calling on HUD not to gut its own Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule.
The AFFH regulations were promulgated in 2015 to encourage fair housing practices and promote housing integration by requiring cities and towns to examine historic patterns of segregation and create plans to combat it in order to continue receiving federal housing funds. Under the regulations, jurisdictions were required to show – via a formal Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) that had to be reviewed and approved by HUD -- how their proposed housing development plans would reduce racial or ethnic segregation and expand access to fair housing.
Beginning in January of this year, HUD stopped implementation of the AFFH rule, first by suspending all reporting requirements under the AFFH regulations, then by halting its review of AFH reports submitted by jurisdictions.
“The 2015 HUD rule was a game-changer because, for the first time, local jurisdictions were to be held accountable for addressing the problem of ethnic and racial segregation in a meaningful, measurable way,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Now the federal government is abdicating its responsibility under the law to affirmatively promote fair housing goals.”
New Jersey is home to the Law Against Discrimination (LAD), legislation that was originally enacted in 1945 and is still considered one of the nation’s most comprehensive state civil rights laws. Among other things, the LAD prohibits ethnic, racial, religious and other discrimination when selling or renting property.
In addition, New Jersey under the State Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel doctrine has long endeavored to ensure fair and affordable housing opportunities for all residents.
However, population surveys show that New Jersey remains one of the most residentially segregated states in the U.S.
“As is fitting for a state that enacted one of the nation’s oldest and most expansive civil rights statutes, New Jersey has a rich history of promoting equality in housing,” said Attorney General Grewal. “However, housing segregation is an entrenched and multi-faceted problem, and it is essential that the federal government do its part. We urge HUD not to dismantle the AFFH rule.”
Led by California, Monday’s multi-state letter argues that the 2015 AFFH has potential to transform the FHA’s obligation to affirmatively further fair housing into a means of “putting the nation on a path to more integrated communities and expanded access to opportunity for our most vulnerable populations.”
The letter contends that HUD should reverse any effort to dismantle the AFFH rule, and also urges that any revision of the rule retain multiple “core features” that make the 2015 rule effective.
Among the key elements that must be retained, the letter notes, is the conditioning of HUD grant funding on submission of an accepted AFH report that satisfies a “standardized and thorough review process,” and that contains a detailed analysis of local obstacles to fair housing goals.
Likewise, the letter states, any revision of the existing rule must provide oversight to ensure that locally-driven goals – such as siting decisions by local zoning boards – do not impede fair housing choices.
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