New York Becomes First State to Join Fair Housing Lawsuit Against HUD

John Jordan | May 2018

ALBANY—New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that New York will be joining a lawsuit against the federal government’s alleged failure to enforce the Fair Housing Act.

The lawsuit seeks 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 join in the national lawsuit filed by National Fair Housing Alliance, a civil rights group, to block HUD from unnecessarily delaying implementation of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule Rule’s requirement for an Assessment of Fair Housing.

In January, 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 more than 40 jurisdictions in New York and almost 1,000 jurisdictions across the country, state officials say.

The litigation 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,” Gov. 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.”

New York State officials charge that the state has continued its commitment to the Fair Housing Act by taking actions to reduce barriers to housing for its residents. On April 26, Gov. 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 Trump Administration in the last several months has retreated from the federal government’s role in upholding the Fair Housing Act and its requirements to combat housing discrimination, state officials contend. 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, they add.

 

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth