Monday, January 22, 2018

Fair Housing Is A Human Right

http://www.citylab.com; January 8, 2018


Hello Everyone:

Welcome to a new week on the blog.  Power to my pink pussy hatted sisters who marched this weekend.  Unfortunately, Blogger was not able to come out but Yours Truly wanted to march.  Instead, Blogger urges each and everyone of you to register to vote.  If you have not done so, please go to vote.org for information.  Make sure you come out on November 6, 2018 and vote.  Next, a word about the federal government shutdown.  Fortunately, the shutdown is just about over and the affected employees are set to go back to work.  Senate Democrats and Republicans agreed to a stop gap spending bill, intended to keep the federal government until mid-February while putting the discussion on Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on hold until early February.  A message to the President of The United States, leadership starts at the top.  Instead of spending the weekend at your pouting, tweeting, and watching television, we were not trying to broker some sort of a deal?  After all, do you not pride yourself on your stellar deal making skills?Interestingly, Mr. Trump watched old clips of him berating President Barack Obama.  He also watch the Women's March, mistakenly thinking it was a celebration of their accomplishments. Right, whatever you say.  A friendly reminder to the men and women that make up the United States Congress: We women and men of all races, religions, ethnicities, gender-orientation, and ability will not carry you through on Election Day.  If you want our vote, you will have to earn it.  Blogger hopes all of you were paying close attention to what the marchers were saying, we are here and we vote.  Now on to today's subject, fair housing.

Fair housing is a human right.  This is something that Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson does not seem to fully understand. To wit, at scheduled speech on Monday, January 8, 2018, protestors in Chicago booed Secretary Carson (@jbkm1973; twitter.com; Jan. 8, 2018; date accessed Jan. 22, 2018).  Kriston Capps reports in his CityLab article "One Way to Fight HUD's Heel-Dragging on Fair Housing," " A member of a grassroots senior organization also interrupted his speech [@SeniorCaucus; Ibid]."  It was the Secretary's first public engagement since he "issued a delay in a key rule for advancing fair housing [citylab.com; Jan. 4, 2018; date accessed Jan. 22, 2018] and confronting racial segregation,"  and the resistance is only getting warmed up.

The Friday before, January 5, 2018, 76 national faith, civil rights, affordable housing, and social justice organizations released a joint statement objecting to HUD's decision.  The department (cdn.theatlantic.com; Jan. 5, 2018, date accessed Jan. 22, 2018)  said that it was abrogating its duty to carry out the mission Congress assigned it 50 years ago-a reference to the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Housing advocates maintain that Secretary Carson has essentially suspended the goverment's obligation by postponing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (citylab.com; July 16, 2015; date accessed Jan. 22, 2018) put in place in 2015.  Mr. Capps points out, "This isn't the first time that Carson has tried to postpone an Obama-era housing; A similar maneuver was struck down in federal court in December."  Housing advocates are hopeful that HUD's action on the AFFH final rule will go down as well.  

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Right Under Law (lawyerscommittee.org; date accessed Jan. 22, 2018),

Needless to say, we are prepared to use every tool in our arsenal to fight HUD's suspension of this critical rule,... We are looking carefully to see whether HUD violate the Administrative Procedure Act.

The APA is a dusty federal procedural law that could lay the foundation for a legal challenge to Secretary Carson's effort to put a hold on implementing this fair-housing rule until late 2020.  It has happened once before: "After HUD released a memo back in August pushing a different Obama-era housing rule out to fiscal year 2020, plaintiffs successfully argued that the maneuver violated the APA."

The decision states,

This case is not about what is good housing policy,.... This case is about the rule of law-whether an agency effectively may suspend a duly promulgated regulation without observing the procedures or identifying relevant  factual criteria that the law requires to effect such a change.

Kriston Capps writes, "That case concerns the formula of determining how federal housing aid is calculated."  For example, the Housing Choice Voucher program (citylab.com; April 11, 2017; date accessed Jan. 22, 2018)-commonly known as Section 8-the Housing and Urban Development department used a fair market rent standard for a particular city or metropolitan to determine the local value of a voucher. This resulted in problems in many cities, where the vouchers cannot adequately cover the cost of rents in high-end neighborhoods, which has led to "concentrated poverty in areas with unsafe housing, bad schools, and little opportunity."  

After reading the statement "...vouchers cannot adequately cover the cost of rents in high-end neighborhoods," and think why not move to a more affordable neighborhood?  Easier said than done.  Moving to a more affordable neighborhood is not always possible for Section 8 recipients who want to be near schools and work.  That is their right, thus the fair market rent standard needs to be re-evaluated and re-tooled so that it adequately covers the cost of rent in all neighborhoods.

Alright, back to the matter at hand.  In October 2017, a Connecticut civil rights group, Open Communities Alliance and two Section 8 recipients filed a lawsuit against HUD (ctoca.org; date accessed Jan. 22, 2018).  The plaintiffs were represented by civil rights groups including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Poverty & Race Research Action Council, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Public Citizen-co-signatories on January 5 condemning HUD's postponement of fair housing.

To remedy these negative results, in November 2016, HUD enacted small area fair market rates (SAMFRs), for calculating rents in individual ZIP codes instead of the average rents across metropolitan areas.  The point was to allow families using the vouchers an opportunity to move out of poor neighborhood's into more desireable areas.  This Obama-era regulation was supposed to have taken effect on January 1, 2018.  However, as of August 2017, HUD announced a two-year suspension.

On December 23, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell granted a preliminary injunction for the plaintiffs in OCA v. Carson.  The injunction requires HUD to implement Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing on SAFMRs on January 1, as scheduled.  Mr. Capps notes, "While the government has 30 days to appeal the decision, a HUD memo did not make that sound imminent or likely."

The ruling in OCA v. Carson went ahead for several reason.  Mr. Capps writes, "The court concluded that while HUD mat suspend the SAFMR for an area where it would adversely impact renters, HUD showed no such standard for the 23 metro areas where it delayed the rule (out of 24 in all)."  Secretary Ben Carson's more recent postponement (citylab.com; Jan. 4, 2018; date accessed Jan. 22, 2018) came after previous trouble with the data-mapping tool experienced by approximately 17 out of the 1,200 jurisdictions working on AFFH evaluations.

The December ruling on vouchers the court also determined that HUD did not have the authority to enact such a delay, "...deemed arbitrary and capricious."  Lastly, the ruling demonstrated "that the suspension was likely to pose real harm to the two African-American women and the Connectivut agency who served as plaintiffs."

Kriston Capps sums up his article with the testimony of a woman from Chicago.  He writes, "Her personal testimony showcased how the rule at HUD would make it easier for her to find affordable housing in a safer neighborhood with better education and opportunities for her child."  If her testimony is any indication, there may be many more similar stories.  The plaintiff could very well be able to take Secretary Ben Carson right back to court.