A fair housing law proposal to promote racial and economic integration

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and the Reinvestment Fund have released “An ‘All-Out’ Effort to Achieve Desegregation and Equality of Opportunity: Assessment of Fair Housing 2.0.,” a pathbreaking research brief that proposes the use of fair housing law to work toward the end of segregation. In the report, authors Provost and James S. Riepe Presidential Professor of Law and Education Wendell E. Pritchett, Erica V. Rodarte Costa, and Reinvestment Fund’s Ira J. Goldstein and Emily S. Dowdall emphasize that the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) provision of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) is an obligation that attaches to all federal agencies, not just to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Aerial view of several blocks of rowhouses in Philadelphia.

The brief rests on the premise that the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which was passed more than 50 years, still “has yet to achieve the impact that its framers hoped for.” The authors find that segregation remains a problem even in cities such as Philadelphia, where although residential racial desegregation has declined in the last decade, metrics still place the city in the “highly segregated” category.

They recommend using the Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH), a planning tool created by the Obama Administration that helps implement the AFFH, “as a framework to significantly increase racial justice through a coordinated approach to racial and economic integration in American communities.”

To determine what was successful about how localities addressed fair housing through the AFH, which was rolled back during the Trump Administration, the authors conducted structured interviews with former HUD officials, local housing officials in New Orleans, Houston, Kansas City (MO), Indianapolis, and Philadelphia, and fair housing experts and advocates.

“[W]e propose that the Biden Administration’s revived AFH should, at least in part, reaffirm the goal of making all communities opportune places—and clarify that the purpose is not to just bar subsidized housing production in, or help people depart from places that now are not,” the authors write.

Read more at Penn Law News.