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NYC launches fair housing planning process, despite HUD delays

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The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development is affirming its commitment to ensuring New Yorkers have equal access to housing

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Earlier this year, Ben Carson and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it would delay an Obama-era anti-segregation measure: the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, which was enacted in 2015 as a way to combat discrimination in housing policy.

The measure compelled participating jurisdictions to prepare an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH), which would outline the ways in which cities could correct segregation in housing, and its ripple effects. But as Curbed.com reported at the time, Carson claimed that “the local jurisdictions subject to the rule need more time and assistance to adapt to the numerous requirements it would impose on states, counties, and cities.”

New York City, at least, disagrees; the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) announced today that it will proceed with its own fair housing planning process, which it’s calling “Where We Live NYC.” The agency will seek both input from both community stakeholders and New Yorkers impacted by the rule, which—along with analyses of its own data—will lead to a report outlining how the city can “foster inclusive communities, promote fair housing choice, and increase access to opportunity for all New Yorkers,” as a press release puts it.

In a statement, HPD chair Maria Springer-Torres called the plan “an unprecedented opportunity” that will allow the city to “take a comprehensive look at the historic and ongoing factors that contribute to longstanding patterns of segregation in our neighborhoods, and discuss what we as a City can do to increase housing choice and access to opportunity for all New Yorkers.”

While the goal is to “ensure that…we’re enabling more equitable access to opportunity across the city,” as Leila Bozorg, HPD’s deputy commissioner of neighborhood strategies, puts it HPD also hopes to answer three questions during the process: why New Yorkers live where they live, how that impacts their access to opportunity, and what solutions do New Yorkers want to see to fix issues that arise because of that access (or lack thereof).

In order to that, HPD will engage in public outreach—and a lot of it. Bozorg says the agency is seeking input from more than 250 stakeholder organizations—including community- and faith-based groups, disability advocates, affordable housing developers, academics, policy wonks—along with the general public.

That input from New Yorkers is especially important, as the agency wants to hear about how access to housing impacts their everyday lives. “Fair housing issues go well beyond just housing,” notes Bozorg. “They’re about access to opportunity around a range of topics—transportation, education, jobs, health.” To better understand those issues, HPD will lead what it calls “community conversations” with groups directly impacted by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, including NYCHA residents, immigrants, people with disabilities, LGBTQ households, and seniors.

HUD’s delay on implementing the AFFH rule is widely seen as another attempt by the agency to undermine anti-segregation measures that it’s meant to uphold. In late 2017, for example, HUD announced its intention to delay the Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR), which gives Section 8 voucher holders more choice in where they can live. HUD was ultimately sued over the delay, and as Curbed.com reported, the agency “lost in court and is now working to implement the SAFMR rule.”

A similar lawsuit could play out regarding AFHH, but in the meantime, HPD isn’t resting on its laurels. “At the end of the day, the delay of implementation of the assessment of fair housing does not change the city’s obligation to affirmatively further fair housing,” says Bozorg. “We felt that work was important to carry on.”