Section 8 Owner Enters into a Racial Equity Agreement with HUD
HUD recently announced that it has entered into a Voluntary Compliance Agreement with a New York City-based site. The site provides affordable subsidized units though the Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment Program and the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program.
The agreement arose from a compliance review that was conducted by HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. FHEO opened the review based on information indicating disproportionately low participation rates of Black, Hispanic, and Asian residents relative to the housing market area. The review sought to ensure eligible persons were not discriminated against in opportunities to learn about, apply for, and reside in HUD-subsidized housing on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
The context: HUD enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, and familial status. HUD also enforces other federal civil rights laws, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.
FHEO reviewed the site's policies, processes, and practices with regard to marketing, applications, and waitlists, for compliance with Title VI. And they were alleged to have violated Title VI. However, by complying with the agreement the owners have voluntarily agreed to resolve the results of the compliance review, and the agreement does not mean the owners have admitted to any violation of law.
One level deeper: The agreement covers the site for a period of three years. The owners agreed to to implement new processes around the waitlist, advertising and outreach, language access, application content, resident screening criteria, and assistance animals. Along with making the listed changes to the site's practices, the owner agreed to provide training to all staff on fair housing and civil rights obligations.
The agreement mandates the creation of a new waitlist after robust marketing to those least likely to apply. In addition, the agreement requires recipients to commit to expending a minimum of $50,000 to advance fair housing choice in the region, including a minimum of $10,000 towards advertising and outreach (including website development); making applications available and accepting applications by mail, email, in person, and online; revising any policies that include an evaluation of credit or rental history consistent with civil rights laws and HUD’s guidance; developing a revised language access plan; and temporarily waiving fees ordinarily charged to newly admitted residents.
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