Defunding HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule

May 19, 2016

Mr. President: The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule – which my amendment would defund – is equal parts condescension and willful blindness. 

The condescension of the rule and its proponents is that local governments and Public Housing Authorities across America can’t figure out how to provide fair and affordable housing to their communities without the help of federal bureaucrats. 

This is the epitome of the paternalism that informs so much of what happens in Washington, D.C. today.

I don’t doubt – as Senator Collins has said repeatedly – that local governments would like “better guidance” from the Department of Housing and Urban Development here in Washington.

But this is a problem that was created by HUD – with its onerous requirements and vague mandates – not the result of local governments being unable or unwilling to provide adequate low-cost housing for their neighbors in need.

And this brings us to the “willful blindness” part of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule.

Proponents of the rule claim that HUD officials consulted closely with local governments and Public Housing Authorities when drafting and finalizing the AFFH rule.

In their telling, local housing agencies across the country are welcoming the AFFH rule with open arms.

But this ignores what local officials have actually said about AFFH.

I’ll let these local officials speak for themselves.

Roger Partridge, the County Commissioner of Douglas County Colorado, had this to say about AFFH, the closed process that produced it, and the immense burdens it will place on local governments.

In an email he wrote:

“Douglas County believes that the Assessment of Fair Housing tool as it now stands is an unfunded mandate that will create an administrative nightmare for jurisdictions who want to further fair housing and implement community programs with HUD grants.”

Commissioner Partridge continues: 

“HUD headquarters has repeatedly ignored the local practitioners responsible for AFFH and implementing the AFH and in our communities.” 

“In fact, HUD headquarters staff was in Denver for a Public AFFH roundtable on April 21st, during [the AFFH rule] comment period. They ignored the opportunity to inform Region VIII Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) staff or the local practitioners attending the roundtable.  No notice from the HUD EXCHANGE to the grantee list serve was found.  The local governments who were asked to comment on the publication were shut out of the process.” 

Likewise, this is what we’ve heard from Salt Lake County officials.

“The administrative burden imposed by this tool is excessive. Resources that could be put into housing related tasks are being funneled into completing the tool and its associated administrative tasks.”

“Additionally, although HUD claims that this tool can be completed without the use of a consultant, the assessment is complex enough to warrant considering a consultant. The rule imposes a jurisdictional and regional analysis that is too complex to be effectively completed by staff without specific statistical and mapping knowledge. As housing providers, most staff at PHAs have comparative advantages that lie in providing affordable housing services, but not providing complex statistical data analysis. Forcing PHA staff to do this analysis is an inefficient use of their scarce time.”

“The AFH does not recognize the zero-sum nature of a PHA’s resource allocation. By allocating resources to complete this process, PHAs are not allocating resources somewhere else. Those resources could be used to provide additional housing assistance.”

Mr. President, instead of ignoring the words and experiences of our local officials – and instead of condescending to them – we should listen to and learn from them.

We should stop this disastrous new housing rule from causing more problems than it already has.

I yield the floor.