Governor Cuomo announces New York State to join lawsuit against federal government for failing to enforce Fair Housing Act

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York State is moving to join a lawsuit against the federal government for failing to enforce the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit aims 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 move to join in the national lawsuit filed by a group of fair housing advocates, which seeks to reverse HUD’s suspension of the implementation of the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule.

The obligation to “affirmatively further fair housing” has applied to all HUD funding since the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968. In July 2015, under the Obama administration, HUD adopted a set of federal regulations—known as the AFFH Rule—to guide the compliance efforts of local and state recipients of HUD’s block grant funds. The AFFH Rule strengthened HUD’s civil rights oversight of grantees and encouraged grantees to fulfill their obligation to affirmatively further fair housing and achieve the goals of the Fair Housing Act.

In January, under the Trump administration, 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 over 40 jurisdictions in New York and almost 1,000 jurisdictions across the country.

The case, National Fair Housing Alliance et al v. Carson, is a legal challenge brought by civil rights groups to block HUD from unnecessarily delaying implementation of AFFH Rule’s requirement for an Assessment of Fair Housing.

New York has concrete interests in this critical civil rights lawsuit that require the State to take action to uphold the tenets of fair housing. The State’s motion to join the case will establish that the Fair Housing Act requires HUD to administer its programs in a manner that affirmatively furthers fair housing and, by suspending the AFFH Rule’s requirements, that HUD has abdicated this statutory requirement for years to come. Specifically, the suspension of the AFFH Rule’ is unlawful because HUD failed to follow federal law requiring notice and public comment and failed to provide sufficient justification for the suspension the AFFH Rule’s requirements. 

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