Housing in Brief: Obama-Era Fair Housing Rule to be Restored (Mostly)

Plus, Nashville needs to quadruple affordable housing production, and the Twin Cities consider rent control.

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge (Photo by U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) / Public domain)

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Obama-Era Fair Housing Rule to be Restored (Mostly)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is set to restore a fair housing rule from the Obama era that was gutted last year by the Trump administration, but advocates worry that the removal of a key monitoring provision could reduce its impact, the Washington Post reports.

The HUD rule, known as “affirmatively furthering fair housing,” requires cities that receive federal housing money to reduce racial segregation in their communities. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in January promoting racial equity and signaling that his administration would re-implement the rule, the report notes. But according to the report, the new rule, which could be finalized this week, will not require cities to “undergo an extensive analysis of local barriers to integration and submit plans to dismantle them to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.” Officials say that provision of the rule has proven burdensome to communities. But advocates say the monitoring and reporting requirement is the main enforcement mechanism of the rule, and without it, the rule could be much less effective, according to the report.

“This doesn’t reverse the damage of the Trump administration,” Jonathan Zasloff, a UCLA School of Law professor, told the Post. “The entire point of the 2015 rule was to have a standard data set. What gets measured gets dealt with.”

HUD officials told the Post that cities would still have to track their own efforts to reduce segregation, and that HUD would hire more staff to investigate housing-discrimination complaints, according to the report. The rule was finalized on Thursday.

Nashville Needs to Quadruple Affordable Housing Production

An affordable-housing task force appointed by Nashville Mayor John Cooper released a report this week calling for the city to increase its investments in affordable housing, and saying the city needs to quadruple its yearly housing production in order to meet its needs by 2030, according to the Tennessean.

The task force report calls on the city to add $30 million a year to the Barnes Housing Trust Fund, in order to help finance at least 1,500 units annually, the Tennessean said. The task force also recommends that the city create a department dedicated to affordable housing, like most other big cities have, create new revenue sources for housing, dedicate more publicly owned land to housing development, and amend zoning rules to promote denser housing, among other goals. It also recommends that the city dedicate $10 million to a Catalyst Fund that can “quickly preserve at-risk units,” like a group of nonprofit developers in the city recently found a way to do using loan guarantees from local banks and foundations, as Next City reported.

Many of the task force’s recommendations align with demands that advocates with Nashville Organized for Action and Hope have been making for some time, as Next City reported.

“Everyone who works here should be able to live here,” Cooper said in a press release. “That includes our teachers, first responders, and food service workers – the essential workers who got us through this past year.”

About half of Nashville renters have paid more than 30 percent of their income for housing, according to the press release. At the current rate of production, the press release says, the city could face a 50,000-unit shortage by 2030.

Twin Cities Consider Rent Control

Republican state legislators in Minnesota have dropped a plan to ban rent control policies, which are being considered in both Minneapolis and St. Paul, according to a report in the Minnesota Reformer. Republicans in the state legislature had initially included the ban in negotiations around ending the state eviction moratorium, the report says. Lawmakers have not yet struck a deal on how to create an “off-ramp” from the eviction moratorium, according to the report.

Advocates in St. Paul are pushing for a rent-stabilization policy that would cap annual increases at 3%, and hoping that voters will approve it on the ballot in November, according to a separate report in the Reformer. In Minneapolis, advocates are pushing for a ballot measure that would legalize rent control in the city but not go as far as implementing it immediately, according to MinnPost.

St. Paul advocates are hoping to have 10,000 signatures in support of the measure by June 15, and a commission that reviews the city charter in Minneapolis is expected to discuss the rent-control measure on July 7, according to an Axios report. Prior to the pandemic, rent control policies were gaining steam in American cities after falling out of most policymakers’ favor for many years, as Next City reported.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.

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Tags: affordable housingminneapolisst. paulnashvillerent control

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