The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is charged under the Fair Housing Act with promoting racial integration in housing throughout the country. This duty is based upon the agency’s obligation to ‘affirmatively further fair housing” under 42 USC 3608. One means by which HUD has pursued that goal is by encouraging local and regional governments to identify barriers to fair housing and means to overcome those barriers, commonly referred to as a fair housing impediments analysis.
In theory, such analyses could be powerful tools to break down patterns of segregated housing; in practice, they rarely function that way. HUD Secretary Shawn Donovan has described the disappointing results as largely a “paperwork exercise.” As a result HUD has now rolled out a new fair housing planning and action tool, known as the Fair Housing Equity Assessment (FHEA). We believe at HPP that the FHEA holds considerable promise as a tool to get us closer to our national fair housing goals.
The FHEA is both a powerful analytical mapping and data tool, and a new way of thinking about fair housing. The central idea is much broader than many associate with fair housing: how should regions plan so that they more effectively connect people to opportunity, particularly low income communities of color. This first involves identifying indicators of opportunity (typically, jobs, transit, good schools, healthy and safe neighborhoods, etc.) and then assessing the degree to which citizens, particularly low income communities of color, are connected or disconnected to these key opportunity assets. Ways to more effectively connect people are to be identified, and these strategies are to be tied in with regional planning efforts. In the case of the Twin Cities Region, that means incorporating FHEA results into the Thrive MSP 2040 plan, which is the once in a decade regional land use planning effort that the Met Council undertakes, in order to guide development in the region. FHEA will also inform subsequent Met Council planning efforts, in particular, the Regional Housing Plan.
HPP staff were among the first in the Region to identify the potential of the FHEA as an advocacy tool to push for greater regional social equity. HPP staff now serve on the Met Council-led committees building the FHEA model. For more information, see HPP powerpoint presentation here.