A May 2013 report issued by The Institute for Policy Integrity argues that in order to more affirmatively further fair housing, HUD must work to provide clearer and more quantifiable goals and expectations to the nation’s municipalities. Some of the central themes discussed include a stress on quantitative guidance in the enforcement of the Fair Housing Act as well as strong cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis.
The Institute’s critique is one of many reports published this year on the effectiveness of HUD’s efforts to affirmatively further fair housing. The Poverty & Race Research Action Council also released a “First Term Report Card” earlier this which examined their progress of enforcing the AFFH mandate among its grantees, including state and local governments and public housing agencies.
Going forward, the Institute for Policy Integrity writes that legislation should develop strong quantitative guidance. This entails first developing a concrete definition of what it means to affirmatively further fair housing, and secondly, developing a method to measure it. This step will serve to set goals, and measure success. That being said, the main component of these quantitative, measurable, and enforceable benchmarks is a single metric. The report explains, “If HUD determines that equal opportunity in housing is the ultimate goal of its affirmatively furthering fair housing mandate, the final metric may end up being a version of the Opportunity Index…If HUD determines that the ultimate goal of its mandate is a combination of active integration and ensuring equality opportunity, HUD will need to create a metric that combines the Opportunity Index with measures like the dissimilarity index, weighting each by the proportional importance HUD ascribes to it with respect to the goal of affirmatively furthering fair housing”. In essence, the metric will most likely seek to aggregate several components of fair housing goals, and will therefore be an effective, universal benchmark useful in comparing policies and measuring progress.
Once the goals of the fair housing act are quantifiable, HUD should work to use this concrete data to engage in cost effectiveness analysis and cost benefit analysis. Cost-effectiveness analysis will be key in calculating the monetary costs of compliance to the Fair Housing Act. Further, this information will aid municipalities to budget and compile reports & action plans. The report argues that “Cost-effectiveness analysis can assist at two stages of the analysis process—both when individual grantees are deciding the optimal projects for their region, and when HUD is deciding between potential grantees in order to decide which entities should receive the limited grant funds.”
Cost-benefit analysis should also be utilized. This type of analysis would give HUD valuable insight as to how much and what type of spending yields the most beneficial results. Moreover, a thorough analysis of benefits will reveal the innumerable economic and social benefits of affirmatively furthering fair housing. For instance, the report sites improved learning environments, less neighborhood violence, and more socio-economically diverse and sustainable communities.
This recent report sheds light on real, attainable improvements to the Fair Housing Act. With the unfolding of scenarios like that of Westchester County, potential shortcomings and ambiguities of this pivotal legislation have come to the forefront. However, HUD has the power to effectively accelerate the promotion of fair housing, given it is able to clarify and quantify its expectations in order to strengthen municipal accountability. Furthermore, studies such as this one conducted by the institute for Policy Integrity demonstrate the indispensable power of affirmatively furthering fair housing; a nation that is integrated and equal reaps innumerable, even inexpressible, nuanced benefits which transcend statistics and spreadsheets. Ultimately, however, the more concrete parameters of progress and expectations must be outlined and enforced to path the way forward in the fight for fair housing.
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By Zoe Chapin, Fair Housing Research Assistant