A week later
:  The divisive racial rhetoric of the recent campaign is deeply concerning to all of us at PRRAC, not just for the license it has given to personal expressions of racism, but also for the hardships it portends for those low income families who rely on federal housing assistance, and who rely on our public schools to provide greater opportunity for their children. Working alongside other national civil rights groups, we intend to hold the new administration accountable to these families, even as more of our work shifts to the state and local level. In the meantime, we appreciate the continuing work of the Obama administration to tie up some loose ends and leave federal housing and education policy in a more stable and sustainable place than where we began eight years ago:
Small Area FMRs:   HUD released its final rule yesterday to permit zip-code based fair market rents for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, instead of the current practice of setting maximum rent ranges based on the 40th or 50th percentile of all rents in the metropolitan region. As stated in the notice, "[t]he use of Small Area FMRs is expected to give HCV tenants access to areas of high opportunity and lower poverty areas by providing a subsidy that is adequate to cover rents in those areas, thereby reducing the number of voucher families that reside in areas of high poverty concentration."  The final rule was responsive to some of the concerns that PRRAC and its coalition partners advanced, including excluding from the application of the rule metro areas with very low housing vacancy rates, and better targeting regions where voucher concentration is most severe. Agencies in twenty-four metropolitan areas designated in an accompanying notice are required to use SAFMRs to set maximum subsidy levels beginning in federal fiscal year 2018. The rule also gives PHAs in these designated regions the option of delaying or avoiding reductions in rents for families who remain in their units.  It also permits other PHAs to either opt in to SAFMRs with HUD approval, as local conditions warrant, after January 17, 2017 when the rule is effective, or to selectively adjust voucher rents in selected zip codes to conform to the small area FMR.
DOJ-HUD guidance on exclusionary zoning :   Throughout the Fair Housing Act's history, one of its core applications has been to exclusionary zoning and other practices that raise unnecessary barriers to housing choice - from Senator Mondale's concern over "the refusal of suburbs and other communities to accept low-income housing" to the discussion of this issue by the Supreme Court in Inclusive Communities Project v. Texas last year. Last week, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and the Department of Housing and Urban Development released a joint statement describing the Fair Housing Act's application to land use and zoning laws, noting that this field of regulation is "traditionally reserved to state and local governments, except to the extent that it conflicts with requirements imposed by the Fair Housing Act or other federal laws." The statement describes applicable law on intentional discrimination, disparate impact, and reasonable accommodations. The section on intent will aid the public in understanding that "[a] land use or zoning practice may be intentionally discriminatory even if there is no personal bias or animus on the part of individual government officials."
Civil rights guidance for the Rental Assistance Demonstration One program we expect to see expand in the coming years is the Rental Assistance Demonstration, a housing preservation program which provides a more stable housing subsidy and access to financing for capital improvements for public housing and other older federally assisted developments. HUD has now clarified the fair housing and civil rights obligations (including site and neighborhood standards) in a detailed guidance document for PHAs and owners who apply to take advantage of this program. These standards are particularly important where developments are in need of substantial rehabilitation or reconstruction, or where housing assistance is transferred to a building in another neighborhood. Our prior coalition comments on the need for strong fair housing guidelines can be found here.
VAWA regulations: This week, HUD also finally issued regulations implementing the 2013 amendments to the Violence Against Women Act, which "expands protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence,sexual assault, and stalking by amending the definition of domestic violence to include violence committed by intimate partners of victims, and by providing that tenants cannot be denied assistance because an affiliated individual of theirs is or was a victim..."
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