New York Becomes First State in the Nation to Assert Claims to Enforce the Fair Housing Rule
Lawsuit Aims to Force HUD to Comply with its Obligation to Address Segregated Housing Patterns
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York State is moving to join a lawsuit against the federal government for failing to enforce the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit aims to force the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to enforce a rule requiring local and state governments to address segregated housing patterns as a condition of receiving federal housing funding. New York is the first state in the nation to move to join in the national lawsuit filed by a group of fair housing advocates which seeks to reverse HUD's suspension of the implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule.
"As a former HUD Secretary, it is unconscionable to me that the agency entrusted to protect against housing discrimination is abdicating its responsibility, and New York will not stand by and allow the federal government to undo decades of progress in housing rights," Governor Cuomo said. "The right to rent or buy housing free from discrimination is fundamental under the law, and we must do everything in our power to protect those rights and fight segregation in our communities."
"Fifty years ago, the Fair Housing Act was signed into law, banning housing discrimination. Yet the Trump administration is now delaying a critical rule requiring state and local governments to address segregated housing as a condition of federal funding," said Acting Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood. "This is yet another effort by the Trump Administration to take our country—and our state—backwards, and we intend to join a lawsuit to block this unlawful action."
The obligation to "affirmatively further fair housing" has applied to all HUD funding since the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968. In July 2015, under the Obama administration, HUD adopted a set of federal regulations—known as the AFFH Rule—to guide the compliance efforts of local and state recipients of HUD's block grant funds. The AFFH Rule strengthened HUD's civil rights oversight of grantees and encouraged grantees to fulfill their obligation to affirmatively further fair housing and achieve the goals of the Fair Housing Act.
In January, under the Trump administration, HUD postponed the implementation of a requirement that local governments conduct an in-depth analysis -- called an Assessment of Fair Housing. This assessment informs efforts to address housing discrimination, encourage residential integration, and remove barriers to opportunity. The rule also requires the results of that analysis to be submitted to HUD, with actions identified to remove barriers to fair housing, prior to receiving federal housing funds. 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.
The case, National Fair Housing Alliance et al v. Carson, is a legal challenge brought by civil rights groups to block HUD from unnecessarily delaying implementation of AFFH Rule's requirement for an Assessment of Fair Housing.
New York has concrete interests in this critical civil rights lawsuit that require the State to take action to uphold the tenets of fair housing. The State's motion to join the case will establish that the Fair Housing Act requires HUD to administer its programs in a manner that affirmatively furthers fair housing and, by suspending the AFFH Rule's requirements, that HUD has abdicated this statutory requirement for years to come. Specifically, the suspension of the AFFH Rule' is unlawful because HUD failed to follow federal law requiring notice and public comment and failed to provide sufficient justification for the suspension the AFFH Rule's requirements.
The state's motion to intervene will be supported by evidence demonstrating that HUD's failure to enforce adequately enforce the Fair Housing Act will harm residents and communities in New York State.
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.
"The right to rent or buy housing free from discrimination is fundamental under the law, and we must do everything in our power to protect those rights and fight segregation in our communities."
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said, "We thank New York for taking action to safeguard the core principles underlying the Fair Housing Act, one of our nation's most important civil rights laws. 50 years following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, we are still working to realize the goals of the Fair Housing Act which was passed just days after his assassination. We are pleased that Governor Cuomo and the State of New York recognize the importance of HUD's Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule and are willing to go to court to protect this rule. This rule helps our state, cities, and counties expand housing opportunities for our nation's most vulnerable residents. Once again, New York State continues to demonstrate leadership in fighting the federal government's rollback of our nation's critical civil rights laws."
Dennis Parker, Director, ACLU Racial Justice Program, said, "We are pleased that the State of New York recognizes the importance of HUD's Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule. New York State is standing up for its many cities, towns, and counties that would have gone through the local planning process required by the Rule. That process would help remove barriers to opportunity and fair housing for people around the state. It helps ensure that communities take deliberate action to move beyond the legacy of intentional racial segregation that continues to haunt us. Moreover, it requires communities take a hard look at fair housing barriers that get less attention, like those affecting people with disabilities and victims of domestic violence. These entirely reasonable conditions on the dissemination of billions of dollars in federal aid should be restored immediately."
National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said, "Residential segregation is at the root of nearly every disparity facing people of color in the United States. To abandon the Fair Housing Act requirement essentially is to abandon entire communities. Lack of access to employment, transportation, quality public education, adequate nutrition and health - all are driven and exacerbated by segregation. Fair housing has been a lynchpin of the National Urban League's movement for more than a century and we will resist any attempt by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to roll back the hard-fought gains we have achieved."
Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, "Fifty years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, New York neighborhoods remain starkly divided along racial lines. Deeply entrenched housing segregation not only affects the daily lives of New Yorkers, but persists across generations. It is unconscionable that the Trump administration is rolling back an effort to enforce one of the most critical protections of the civil rights era. To break the cycle of segregation and protect our most vulnerable New Yorkers, we must challenge the Trump administration's lack of commitment to fair and affordable housing."
New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "Governor Cuomo continues to lead New York in its work to end housing discrimination and expand access to housing for New Yorkers by fighting HUD's unlawful suspension of the AFFH Rule. The Fair Housing Act was a culmination of the battle for freedom and equality in our neighborhoods and homes; today, Governor Cuomo has reaffirmed New York State's commitment to these values and goals."
Over the last several months, the Trump Administration has retreated from the federal government's role in upholding the Fair Housing Act and its requirements to combat housing discrimination. In addition to suspension of the AFFH Rule's requirement, HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson is rewriting HUD's mission statement to strip away language on building "inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination." There also have been recent reports that HUD is pulling back its enforcement efforts and refusing to bring legal actions against housing providers who discriminate.