CLASP Comments on Community Engagement Requirements within HUD’s Proposed Rule on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing
CLASP appreciates HUD’s commitment to restoring the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation and fulfilling its statutory obligation. The Biden Administration has expressed an intention to advance “equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.” This goal demands a comprehensive, community-oriented AFFH regulation. We commend HUD for proposing a rule that:
- Acknowledges the importance of integrating community input throughout the fair housing planning process.
- Provides technical assistance for program participants.
- Establishes a standard procedure for the public and HUD to enforce Equity Plan compliance.
- Equips community members with information and tools needed to hold program participants accountable.
These components must remain and continue to be prioritized in the final rule. In this comment, we recommend improvements to the proposed rule that strengthen the likelihood that meetings and other interactions with people directly impacted by fair housing issues will produce robust community engagement. CLASP is concerned that the community engagement requirements within the proposed rule prioritize convenience for program participants over quality of engagement. While we understand HUD’s attempts to reduce the burden on program participants through flexibilities like allowing for overlap between planning processes, excessive leniency will erode any distinction that the rule tries to make between community engagement and citizen or resident participation. Convenience cannot be the first priority. Community engagement involves significant preparation, but it should not be viewed as another administrative burden. Adopting the improvements outlined in this comment would ensure that the final rule prioritizes robust community engagement over convenience for program participants. We also suggest training, sub-regulatory guidance, and other materials that HUD should provide to program participants to support them in implementing parts of the rule related to community engagement.