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NFHA Report Points to Progress in Combatting NIMBYism

Posted on 03. May, 2012 by

Download Fair Housing Trends ReportThis week the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) released its annual Fair Housing Trends report for 2012:  Fair Housing in a Changing Nation.  The report reviews fair housing cases brought and settled by private enforcement agencies like NFHA and GNOFHAC, as well as HUD and the Department of Justice.  As in past years, the report shows the highest number of fair housing complaints in the rental market, with race, familial status, and disability discrimination complaints topping the charts.

The report also highlights a development that has excited the fair housing world for the past couple of years: the use of HUD’s “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” (AFFH) requirement as a tool to combat Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) attitudes that often serve as a roadblock to affordable housing development around the country.  In many communities, NIMBYism on the part of elected officials, vocal community members, and neighborhood/civic associations, results in hardship for low and moderate-income families who must to struggle with housing that is unaffordable, poorly maintained, and/or isolated from resources and amenities that tend to cluster around prosperous communities.  This impact is not race-neutral by any means; according to the NFHA report, “three times as many poor African Americans and over twice as many poor Latinos currently live in resource-poor neighborhoods as compared to poor whites.”

HUD-funded entities, included state and local governments, must do more than not discriminate; they are required to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH).  This means they must work to actively expand housing choice and promote integration.  In 2011 HUD proved it would take action against municipalities that neglect their duty to AFFH.  NFHA cites HUD’s threat to strip St. Bernard Parish of $91 million in housing and community development funding after years of fair housing litigation with GNOFHAC.  In addition, in July 2011, HUD withheld funding from Westchester County, NY for their failure to address policies that promoted residential segregation.  Finally, the NFHA report cites HUD and the Department of Justice’s actions against the city of Joliet, IL, for its attempts to block the owners of an apartment complex from restructuring their mortgage to provide affordable housing at the complex for the life of the mortgage.  The city declared the complex blighted and attempted to appropriate it by eminent domain, an action that would have displaced hundreds of tenants.  Less than 20% of Joliet residents identified as black or African American in the 2010 census, but over 95% of the tenants at the apartment complex are African American.

NFHA’s report goes on to applaud the Department of Justice for its actions against the city of New Berlin, WI, for “preventing the construction of an affordable housing development in response to the racially motivated opposition of local residents.”

In 2011, HUD and the DOJ demonstrated that they will in many cases support private enforcement organizations’ efforts to hold cities and government entities accountable for their failure to affirmatively expand housing choice.  The AFFH requirement and the cooperation of HUD and the DOJ will prove valuable tools to combat NIMBYism in city planning, zoning, and land-use decision-making.

You can read NFHA’s excellent report Fair Housing in a Changing Nation here.

2 Responses to “NFHA Report Points to Progress in Combatting NIMBYism”

  1. Jim Bean 8 May 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    NFHA is really cool.

  2. Hannah Adams 9 May 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    For anyone who’s interested in the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing requirement, its history and enforcement, check out this comprehensive new article “Overcoming Structural Barriers to Integrated Housing: A Back-to-the-Future Reflection on the Fair Housing Act’s ‘Affirmatively Further’ Mandate” by Robert Schwemm of University of Kentucky College of Law. Schwemm discusses the background and current enforcement of the mandate, going into detail about the noteworthy litigation against Westchester County over their false claim that they were affirmatively furthering fair housing with their HUD funding. You can read the abstract or download the entire report at