July 3, 2015

In Case You Missed It: A Look at Recent National Housing Policy News

Supreme Court Upholds Disparate Impact Standard for Violations of the Fair Housing Act 

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court today issued its opinion ruling that disparate impact claims may be used to support plaintiffs’ claims of alleged Fair Housing Act (FHA) violations.  Justice Kennedy wrote the Court’s opinion, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan in the case of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA) v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.  The decision remands the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion.  The plaintiff in the case, The Inclusive Communities Project, claimed that Texas DHCA had caused continued segregated housing patterns by allocating a disproportionate amount of the state’s Housing Credits to developments in predominantly black inner-city areas.

Senate Appropriations Committee FY 2016 THUD Bill Virtually Eliminates HOME 

Earlier today, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 20 to 10 to pass the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies funding bill.  Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) joined the Republican members of the Committee to report the bill for consideration by the full Senate. Full Committee consideration of the measure followed the Subcommittee mark-up on June 23.  The bill would effectively eliminate the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program—a critical program that is central to HFAs’ ability to meet their states’ affordable housing needs.  It provides just $66 million – a staggering reduction of 93% from HOME’s already record-low FY 2015 funding level of $900 million.  According to HUD, if HOME were zeroed out in FY16 and not funded at the President’s requested level of $1.06 billion, there would be a loss of an estimated 38,665 affordable housing units (16,045 homebuyer units, 15,099 new or rehabilitated rental units, and 7,521 owner-occupied homes rehabilitated for low income homeowners), and 8,813 fewer families would be assisted with HOME tenant based rental assistance.

HUD Issues FAQs and Other Resources for Housing Trust Fund 

On June 22, HUD published new background resources for the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) program, including a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document, a summary of the interim rule, and a video on HUD’s YouTube channel providing an overview presentation of HTF.  The FAQ addresses questions about the HTF Annual Action Plan, including how and when states can submit HTF allocation plans to HUD, administrative requirements regarding when a state must notify HUD of which agency will administer HTF, and whether states will be allowed to charge pre-award costs to HTF planning activities.  The FAQ confirms that Davis-Bacon Labor Standards will not apply to HTF.

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