"Putting CDBG Recipients "On Notice","by Rob Breymaier & Justin Massa September/October 2009 issue of Poverty & Race
On September 22, Westchester County’s Board of Legislators voted to approve a landmark settlement to foster racial integration throughout the county. Meanwhile, it is likely that most, if not all, of the 1,200+ states, counties and municipalities across the country that receive Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds are revisiting their housing and community development plans and procedures.
The Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York v. Westchester County settlement requires Westchester to make up for years of neglect regarding the affirmative furthering of fair housing—namely, addressing the impediments to fair housing choice that perpetuate segregation. As HUD’s Deputy Secretary Ron Sims noted during the press conference announcing the settlement, after nearly a decade of lax federal oversight, communities around the nation are now “on notice.”
The case makes clear that recipients of federal housing and community development funds "must comply with, inter alia, the provisions of the Housing and Community Development Act, including the requirement that it affirmatively further fair housing," which it goes on to define as pro-integrative housing policies. Long ignored and often misunderstood, affirmative furthering of fair housing has always been about promoting, fostering and sustaining integration in the housing market.
The case could not be more timely. While a significant victory for fair housing and integration advocates, the Westchester settlement is small in comparison to the benefit that proper regulations from HUD on the duty to affirmatively further fair housing may provide. Regulations currently being drafted by HUD staff are slated to be published for public comment within the next few months.
To understand the potential implications of the settlement and new regulations, take a look at the numbers. Under the settlement, Westchester County will spend roughly $50 million on affirmatively located affordable housing developments over the next five years. Annually, HUD allocates over $20 billion nationally to affordable housing through CDBG, HOME, Section 8, voucher and public housing funds. Billions more dollars in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits are used annually to finance affordable housing programs. These funds have rarely received an affirmative analysis.
Currently, regulations regarding the affirmative furthering of fair housing are vague, process-oriented, unaccountable and thus largely ineffective. Updating them to require measurable actions with targeted outcomes, subject to oversight and review, would result in powerful positive impacts. We believe these regulations should:
For more information on the Westchester case, go to www.antibiaslaw.com
Rob Breymaier is the Executive Director of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center. The Housing Center has a mission to achieve lasting racial diversity in Oak Park and surrounding communities. He is also serving as the current President of the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance. email@example.com
Justin Massa is Executive Director of the Chicago-based MoveSmart.org, an organization that fosters vibrant and diverse neighborhoods by empowering housing seekers to move to opportunity.
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