Expanding Access to Healthy Communities through Fair Housing

Expanding Access to Healthy Communities through Fair Housing

Gustavo Velasquez and HUD Secretary Julian Castro

Gustavo Velasquez, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, and Julian Castro, Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Authors: Gustavo Velasquez, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, and Harriet Tregoning, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Community Planning and Development, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A zip code should never define a person’s destiny or prevent a child from reaching their aspirations. Yet there is no longer any question that a connection exists between where you live and what lifelong outcomes may be likely for you and your family. Research on poverty and economic mobility published last year by Harvard economists offered sobering evidence of the power of a child’s environment to shape his or her future health and wellbeing.

We all want the same things for our families: a safe and affordable place to call home, access to jobs, transportation options, healthy food, good schools and opportunities for our children. That is why we at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a rule last year to better equip communities with the data and tools they need to identify fair housing issues and break down barriers in access to opportunity and fair housing choice.

For 48 years, federal agencies and recipients of federal funding relating to housing and urban development have been obligated by the Fair Housing Act to “affirmatively further fair housing” (AFFH). However, as data and information systems have evolved, we all have access to new resources to assist us in this endeavor. The AFFH final rule provides certain HUD program participants with guidelines, plus the data, tools and technical assistance they need, to conduct an in-depth and localized analysis of fair housing issues in their jurisdictions and regions.

This image is a thematic map of the St. Louis, Missouri-Illinois metropolitan area created with HUD's AFFH Data and Mapping Tool. The map shows the dot distribution of the St. Louis population by race and ethnicity overlaid on a gray-scale map that corresponds to environmental health, where higher values shown as darker gray indicate less exposure to harmful air toxins, and lower values, shown as lighter gray, indicate higher exposure to harmful toxins. The map also displays the locations of racially- and ethnically-concentrated areas of poverty (RCAP/ECAP) by highlighting those census tracts that meet the RCAP/ECAP threshold. The legend on the right hand side indicates that the demographic groups shown on the map are: White Non-Hispanic, Black Non-Hispanic, Native American Non-Hispanic, Asian-Pacific Islander Non-Hispanic, Hispanic, and Other Non-Hispanic.

Created with HUD’s AFFH Data and Mapping Tool, this map shows the dot distribution of the population by racially- and ethnically-concentrated areas of poverty (RCAP/ECAP) overlaid on a gray-scale map that corresponds to environmental health and exposure to harmful toxins. The legend on the right hand side indicates that the demographic groups shown on the map.

Additionally, the AFFH rule addresses HUD’s responsibility – under the 1994 Executive Order 12898 – to consider the environmental justice effects of federally assisted projects. One of the required components of an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) is a measurement of environmental health.  The image above shows how measures of environmental health are provided in the new AFFH data and mapping tool, a free and publicly available tool that can be used by anyone to map fair housing issues in their community, including segregation, environmental health, and access to opportunity. HUD also encourages communities to use other sources of data, like EPA’s EJSCREEN in order to assess environmental health as part of their assessments of fair housing.

Between this year and the next, over 100 communities across the country will be examining their local and regional fair housing landscapes and engaging their communities in the development of their Assessment of Fair Housing to comply with the AFFH rule.

Even if your community’s assessment is not due for several years, the data tool is available for your use now. Proposed fair housing assessment tools, which local governments, states, insular areas, and public housing agencies will be using to complete their assessment, are also out for public comment under the Paperwork Reduction Act at this very moment. We want to hear from you!  Take a look at the types of data and analysis HUD will be asking program participants to prepare and some of the guidance HUD is providing on the HUD Exchange website. Then tell us what you think about the proposed tools by submitting public comments on regulations.gov. The deadline for submitting comments on the assessment tool for states and insular areas is 11:59 PM ET on May 10, 2016; comments on assessment tools for local governments and for public housing agencies must be submitted by 11:59 PM ET on May 23, 2016.

Like the obligation to affirmatively further fair housing, segregation and unequal access to opportunity are not new. But we are introducing new data and tools to assist communities with their obligation and to overcome barriers to fair housing choice. Enabled with these data and tools, communities can make informed decisions, establish locally-determined fair housing goals, and take meaningful actions to become more inclusive, healthy, and sustainable.

Some regions have already piloted a related fair housing planning process, the fair housing and equity assessment, through HUD’s Sustainable Communities Initiative, with great results. The findings of these assessments prompted local decision-makers to reevaluate the way they invested in and planned for public infrastructure, services, transit, and housing – learn more here.

We look forward to hearing from you!





Expanding Access to Healthy Communities through Fair Housing
Source: EPA Water Science news

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