Lawsuit Seeks to Force HUD to Comply With Obligation to Address Racial Segregation and Other Fair Housing Issues
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood today filed a motion to join a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for failing to fulfill its obligations under the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit, National Fair Housing Alliance et al. v. Carson, is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
"As former HUD Secretary, it is appalling to me that the agency would abdicate its responsibility to fight housing segregation and discrimination and allow this deplorable practice to continue," Governor Cuomo said. "New York will not stand by as the federal government tries to undo the progress made to advance fair housing over the last half-century and we are taking action to ensure that this state continues to move forward in the face of Washington's inaction."
"The Fair Housing Act was signed into law fifty years ago, banning housing discrimination. Yet the Trump administration is now abdicating one of its most basic responsibilities to protect against housing discrimination, instead seeking to take our country - and our state - backwards," said Attorney General Underwood. "Our office has made clear that we won't stand by as this administration runs roughshod over the law - so we're intervening to block this unlawful action."
Enacted in 1968, the Fair Housing Act requires localities that receive HUD funds to take steps to "affirmatively further fair housing." For decades, the federal government has failed to enforce this mandate, which was intended to address racial segregation and other fair housing issues that have long plagued communities throughout the country.
In 2015, HUD adopted the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing Rule, at last fulfilling this unmet mandate of the Fair Housing Act. Under the Rule, jurisdictions that receive HUD funds must take affirmative steps to combat longstanding patterns of segregation and promote integrated housing. The Rule required jurisdictions to identify fair housing issues in their communities and develop actions to address those issues, while also requiring HUD to provide feedback to jurisdictions and monitor their compliance.
The Rule did not contemplate a cookie-cutter approach to fair housing, but instead required jurisdictions to develop their own, locally-driven solutions to segregation and fair housing. To that end, the Rule required jurisdictions to engage community members and analyze local data in identifying and setting fair housing priorities.
In the two years since the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing Rule became effective, it has already paid dividends. For example, jurisdictions like New Rochelle, which submitted a declaration in support of New York's lawsuit, have committed to concrete reforms that will improve the lives of their most vulnerable residents and create more integrated, inclusive communities.
On January 5, 2018, HUD abruptly announced—without prior notice or opportunity to comment—that it was suspending the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing Rule, meaning that most recipients of federal housing funds would not have to comply with the rule until at least 2024. On May 23, 2018, after three non-profit organizations challenged HUD's action in federal court, HUD published three new notices related to the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing Rule. Although HUD withdrew the January 5th notice, the result of its actions was to make it impossible for jurisdictions to comply with the rule and to again defer the deadline by which funding recipients would have to comply to an undetermined future date.
By suspending the requirement, HUD effectively quit its obligation to provide civil rights oversight for as much as $5.5 billion per year in the funding that is distributed to over 40 jurisdictions in New York and almost 1,000 jurisdictions across the country.
HUD's actions will delay efforts to address fair housing issues throughout the state, thus impeding New York's efforts to address continuing segregation and discrimination.
New York State receives HUD funding through several grant programs, including the Community Development Block Grant program and the Home Investment Partnerships Program. New York State Homes and Community Renewal administers these programs and distributes the funding to local counties, municipalities, and others. Forty-nine large counties and municipalities in New York State also receive funding directly from HUD.
In a declaration accompanying today's filing, NYSHCR explained that it takes seriously its obligations under the Fair Housing Act and welcomed the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing Rule of 2015. To fulfill its commitments, it depends on both HUD and local jurisdictions to contribute to the State's efforts to promote integration and genuine housing choice—efforts that have been thwarted by HUD's actions.
Even before becoming Secretary of HUD, Ben Carson derided the AFFH Rule as a "failed socialist experiment" and compared it to "mandated busing" of schoolchildren.
Today's lawsuit argues that HUD's actions violate the Administrative Procedure Act because, one, HUD suspended the requirements set forth in the AFFH Rule without opportunity for notice and comment; two, HUD ignored key evidence and failed to provide sufficient reasons for suspending the AFFH requirements; and three, by suspending the requirements of the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing Rule without providing an effective replacement, HUD has abdicated its statutory responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act.
New York State has continued its commitment to the values underlying the Fair Housing Act by taking actions to reduce barriers to housing for its residents. Most recently, on April 26, 2018, Governor Cuomo introduced a bill to prohibit discrimination based on lawful source of income. The bill would increase access to homes and neighborhoods for thousands of New Yorkers. The State is also conducting fair housing testing and has filed lawsuits against landlords for documentation. The State's motion to intervene further demonstrates its commitment to combating housing discrimination and segregation statewide.