Category Archives: fair housing

Say It Loud: Renters’ Rights are Civil Rights! – Shelterforce

Hand made sign about gentrification in a demonstration.

 Photo by Abbey Hambright via flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Generations of racist government policies such as redlining, the razing of neighborhoods to build highways, and exclusionary zoning has created deeply segregated and unequal neighborhoods. These policies both prevented people of color from accessing resources where they lived and from moving to suburban neighborhoods where resources were being invested.”

“Advocates and renters argue that protecting tenants is good policy because it advances equity, economic opportunity, and even a healthier environment.”

Read full article from Shelterforce Source: Say It Loud: Renters’ Rights are Civil Rights! – Shelterforce

Thanks to Shelterforce for publishing such articles as this one.

[Shelterforce Note: This article is adapted from the IGNITE! Community Pitch Fest, held at the Grounded Solutions Intersections 2017 conference on Oct. 11, 2017. Out of 20 entries and 6 finalists, audience members chose Public Advocates’ pitch as the winner.]

Integration—We’ve Been Doing It All Wrong – Shelterforce

At #Brownat60 Rally, 2014. Photo credit: AFGE via flickr, CC BY 2.0

The American approach to racial integration has been done all wrong, and it has had a disastrous effect on African Americans.

Article published in SHELTERFORCE by Pete Saunders – November 10, 2017

Source: Integration—We’ve Been Doing It All Wrong – Shelterforce

Photo by techne via flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Borrowed from “SHELTERFORCE” -10 Ways to Talk About Inclusionary Housing, Differently

Shelterforce blog by Sasha Hauswald – September 20, 2017

…  Number 4 is one of my favorite. (Thriving Communities Editor)

” 4.  Streamline barriers to development

Many jurisdictions have zoning code requirements that are so complex that it is nearly impossible to build anything without lengthy and unpredictable approval processes for special exceptions to the zoning code. Inclusionary done right can greatly reduce procedural barriers to new development.

Affordable housing requirements are often adopted in combination with area-wide up-zoning or enhanced flexibility to build, by right, a reasonably profitable multifamily building. In these cases, inclusionary housing programs can actually increase development activity. Most importantly, inclusionary housing policies establish clear and predictable expectations that local developers can plan around. “

Important Federal Funding Facts About Housing in America



Information sheet produced by the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Click on Picture for a Full View

April Fair Housing Month Activities in Burlington Vermont

Tell your friends, family and coworkers to participate. Some April activities will no doubt be happening in other states as well.

Be sure you scroll down using the scroll bar on the right of the text box to see both pages.

If you have questions write FHP@CVOEO.ORG


Fighting Community Opposition in the Age of…Opposition

From the “Shelterforce Blog”, “Rooflines”

Posted in Shelterforce by Amy Clark on December 14, 2016 via  @Shelterforce

On Nov, 8, voters across the country heard the affordable housing call and approved numerous state and local housing funding measures that will make it possible for more of our neighbors to live in safe, healthy, and affordable homes. This was a real achievement in housing advocacy, but the work is far from over. Developers, local governments, and advocates must now move to convince the neighbors of proposed housing developments to accept more affordable homes into their communities.

The election that brought over 37 affordable housing measures to the ballot in eight states also elevated toxic rhetoric about people of color and other populations. The public discourse has changed, and that’s likely to affect our efforts to build support for affordable housing development and counter community opposition. Here’s what you may hear about affordable housing in your community, and how to prepare for it:

Racial animus. In the wake of the election, there have been many reports of hate-based harassment and intimidation across the country. An offending segment of our population feels newly empowered to use racist language in all types of situations. While racism and fear of difference have always been, at the very least, an undercurrent of some forms of community opposition, in recent years it’s largely been implied, not overt. You may see an uptick in overt racism in siting conversations.

What to do? While it would be satisfying—and, arguably, right—to call out racist language directly when you hear it, research tells us that this is likely to backfire, causing the speaker to defensively double-down on the prejudiced belief. Instead, a study this year found that “a short conversation encouraging actively taking the perspective of others can markedly reduce prejudice.” It argues for holding small-group conversations and facilitators trained to listen and find common ground.

Misinformation. You’ve likely heard much about the success of fake news during the presidential campaign. Misinformation this election cycle may have had a distinctive rightward bent, but don’t pat yourself on the back if you lean left. All of us are susceptible to information that confirms what we already believe, regardless of its factual accuracy. Don’t be surprised to see an increase in the misinformation about your work being posted online and handed around in anonymous flyers around the neighborhoods where you work.

What to do? Don’t write up a “frequently asked questions” page correcting the lies being told about your work. By emphasizing the misinformation—even when you later correct it—you’re just driving it deeper into peoples’ consciousness. Instead, first tell your truth (“Our apartments increase neighborhood safety.”), then signpost the misinformation and explain the motive behind it (“There is a myth circulating that affordable housing increases crime, promoted by a small new neighborhood group formed to fight our proposal.”), and finally give a brief, clear alternative explanation, repeated in graphics if possible (“In fact, by starting a neighborhood watch program and installing security cameras, we’ve helped create a 13 percent decrease in property crime in another neighborhood where we work. We want to work with you to have a similar positive impact here.”).

Ideological conflict. Research into persistent opposition to affordable housing has shown that spatial ideology—an individual’s set of beliefs around who can live in and use a particular place, and who has the right to participate in decision-making about a place—can be predictive of opposition to, or support of, affordable housing. The recent push to disenfranchise groups of Americans through voter ID laws and other restrictions is an example of a narrow conception of spatial rights, and the electoral contest was rife with rhetoric supporting a conscribed idea of to whom America truly belongs. Opposition may now more frequently focus on delegitimizing prospective low-income residents, perhaps as “not American” or simply “not from here.”

What to do? Unfortunately, ideology might be hard-wired, and thus addressing spatial ideology head-on might not be effective. At the same time, there are likely to be people in your community who believe lower-income people have an equal right to live in a place. Find these potential supporters by emphasizing the values of diversity and inclusion, and give this group a clear way to take action and vocalize support of your work.

Distrust of institutional authority. The success of populist presidential candidates from both parties points to, among other things, Americans’ growing distrust of institutions. Whether it’s in banks, the news media, or government itself, people across the political spectrum have lost faith. Unfortunately, affordable housing development connects to all sorts of things many of our neighbors have come to doubt: taxation, finance systems and entities, and zoning, just to name a few.

What to do? First, people who have lost trust will hear a developer mention “partnering with the government” and translate that into an attempt to paper over a profit-making arrangement. Step away from the marketing talk and use plain language to explain what you do, and why it is successful. Second, reframe the role of these perceived-suspect institutions. A new paper from Enterprise Community Partners and the FrameWorks Institute recommends that we help people understand the role of government in affordable housing by explaining, “the role of systems in shaping outcomes for people and … communities,” and by, “zooming out” to tell broader stories that explain the impact of housing issues on an entire community. You know your work is about more than simply units; help others understand this too.

Countering community opposition has never been easy, and I hope to hear that these predictions have not come true, but even if they do, our work can have a long-term impact on decreasing bias. There is evidence that white people living in diverse neighborhoods “endorsed fewer negative stereotypes, and [feel] closer to Blacks as a group.” When we create diverse, inclusive communities, we help decrease prejudice and division. That’s something truly worth fighting for.


Reform land use, promote shared growth of new housing

– San Francisco Chronicle

By Jason Furman | September 25, 2016 | Updated: September 25, 2016 8:34pm

housing-constructionpicturePhoto: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

When certain government policies — like minimum lot sizes, off-street parking requirements, height limits, prohibitions on multifamily housing, or unnecessarily lengthy permitting processes — restrict the supply of housing, fewer units are available and the price rises.

It is no secret that cities like San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C., face challenges in the availability and cost of housing. But policymakers and economists have increasingly recognized both the role that certain inappropriate land use restrictions play in raising housing costs — not just in major cities but across the country — and the opportunity for modernizing these regulations to promote shared growth.

Basic economic theory predicts that when the supply of a good is constrained, its price rises and the quantity available falls. In this respect, the market for housing is no different: When certain government policies — like minimum lot sizes, off-street parking requirements, height limits, prohibitions on multifamily housing, or unnecessarily lengthy permitting processes — restrict the supply of housing, fewer units are available and the price rises. On the other hand, more efficient policies can promote availability and affordability of housing, regional economic development, transportation options and socioeconomic diversity.

Research suggests that local barriers have become more restrictive in recent decades. One way to measure this is comparing the sale price of houses with construction costs. This gap typically reflects the cost of buying land — which increases with tighter land use restrictions. Indeed, the gap has increased in the past two decades: House prices from 2010 to 2013 were 56 percent higher than construction costs, a 23 percentage-point crease over the average gap during the 1990s.

Of course, many land use regulations can have benefits for communities. Environmental reasons in some localities may make it appropriate to limit high-density or multiuse development. Similarly, health and safety concerns — such as an area’s air traffic patterns, viability of its water supply, or its geologic stability — may merit height and lot size restrictions.

But in other cases, barriers to housing development can allow a small number of individuals to enjoy the benefits of living in a community while excluding many others, limiting diversity and economic mobility.

This upward pressure on house prices may also undermine the market forces that typically determine patterns of housing construction, leading to mismatches between household needs and available housing.

Improving land use policies can also create benefits for the U.S. economy as a whole. High- productivity cities offer higher-income jobs than low-productivity cities and often attract workers who move from other cities, naturally bringing more resources to productive areas of the country. But when unnecessary barriers restrict the supply of housing and costs increase, then workers — particularly lower-income workers who would benefit the most — are less able to move.

All told, this means slower economic growth: Some researchers have estimated that GDP could have been almost 10 percent higher in 2009 if workers and capital freely moved so that the distribution of wages across cities was the same as in 1964.

On the other hand, smarter land use and housing policy can promote both growth and equity. While most land use policies are appropriately made at the state and local level, the federal government can also play a role in encouraging smart land use regulations. Today, the Obama administration is releasing a new toolkit at that highlights best practices that localities have employed — including streamlining permitting processes, eliminating off-street parking requirements, reducing minimum lot sizes, and enacting high-density and multifamily zoning policies — to reduce overly burdensome land use restrictions and promote mobility and economic growth.

Reforming land use policies can have important benefits for local residents and the nation as a whole, not only raising economic growth, but ensuring that its benefits are widely shared among all Americans.

Jason Furman is the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

New HUD AFFH rule – the Good & Some Devils in Details

Okay dear readers, this is a wonky article but for those of you interested in HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule it is a good read. (Ted Wimpey)

The Devils in the Details: Key Issues in Implementing the New AFFH Rule

 by Dan Immergluck and Mindy Kao Rooflines post on July 5, 2016

“For most of the Fair Housing Act’s history, its requirement to “Affirmatively Further Fair Housing” has been largely dormant. With the advent of the new AFFH rules in July 2015, however, there is some promise that this provision might be taken more seriously.”  Link to ROOFLINES, the Shelterforce Blog,



Separating Fact from Fiction to Design Effective Inclusionary Housing Programs

Inclusionary Housing, A Series of Research & Policy Briefs by Center for Housing Policy

[Below is an excerpt. Here is a link to download the full piece -12 pages.!2016-fact-and-fiction/jfbck ]

By Lisa A. Sturtevant, Ph.D.
May 2016
Inclusionary housing programs generally refer to city and county planning ordinances that require or incentivize developers to build below-market-rate homes (affordable homes) as part of the process of developing market-rate housing developments. More than 500 local jurisdictions in the United States have implemented inclusionary housing policies, and inclusionary requirements have been adopted in a wide variety of places—big cities, suburban communities and small towns.
Despite the proliferation of inclusionary housing programs,the approach continues to draw criticism. There have been legal challenges around inclusionary housing requirements in California, Illinois, Idaho, Colorado and Wisconsin, among others.
In addition to legal questions, critics have claimed inclusionary housing policies are not effective at producing affordable housing and have negative impacts on local housing markets. While there have been numerous studies on inclusionary housing, they unfortunately do not provide conclusive evidence about the overall effectiveness of inclusionary housing programs. These studies vary substantially in terms of their research approaches and quality. In addition, it is difficult to generalize the findings from the existing research because researchers have examined policies in only a handful of places and at particular points in time when economic and housing market conditions might have been quite different. Given these limitations, however, the most highly regarded  empirical evidence suggests that inclusionary housing programs can produce affordable housing and do not lead to significant declines in overall housing production or to increases in market-rate prices. [emphasis by author]

Landmark Discrimination Case: Fair Housing Act Thwarts NIMBYs

I am sharing here in full an article about a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision with significant fair housing and Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing import for planning, zoning and permitting of residential housing development that was published April 28, 2016  in the legal issue blog site, “Manatt.” Especially check out the three basic “Practice Pointers” at the end of the article for the main take away. —-


Real Estate and Land Use

Apr 28, 2016
Landmark Discrimination Case: Fair Housing Act Thwarts NIMBYs

Avenue 6E Investments, LLC v. City of Yuma (March 25, 2016)

Author: Michael M. Berger

Why It Matters: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision in favor of the City of Yuma, Arizona, and concluded instead that there was sufficient evidence to present to a jury that the City had rejected the developer’s application for an increase in zoning density for reasons of barely disguised animus toward the expected residents of the new development. The Court held that issues of disparate treatment and disparate impact under both the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the federal Fair Housing Act needed to be tried.

Facts: The plaintiffs/developers acquired 42 acres of undeveloped land with the intent of building a “moderately priced” housing project. They are known in the area as a developer of Hispanic neighborhoods. Although the General Plan allowed for homes on either 6,000- or 8,000-square-foot lots, a prior owner had it zoned for 8,000-square-foot lots. Unfortunately, the economy would no longer support lots of that size and the developers sought a rezoning to the smaller size which in turn would allow increased density. The City had done some studies, concluding that its population was racially divided, with most of the low-to-moderate-income housing in the areas populated by Hispanics. These developers wanted to develop their housing on the border of a predominantly white area.

The City’s General Plan acknowledged that racial segregation is wrong and that large-lot zoning raises housing costs and impairs the ability of the City to provide housing for moderate-income buyers. The Planning Commission approved the rezoning to smaller lots and recommended that the City Council do so as well. The City Council, however, was besieged with NIMBY complaints and thinly veiled anti-Hispanic charges, complaining that these particular developers were known to “cater to” the people responsible for the vast majority of major crimes.

Two other facts had some import. First, there were similarly priced and modelled homes available elsewhere in Yuma, a fact that the City thought absolved it of any claims of disparate impact. Second, a fact that proved difficult for the City to impress on the Court was that, in the preceding three years, this was the only rezoning request that had been rejected out of 76 applications.

The developers filed suit under the federal Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for violation of the Equal Protection guarantee, as well as for disparate impact and treatment under the Fair Housing Act. The trial court entered summary judgment for the City on the sole ground that the adequate supply of similar housing elsewhere in the City automatically foreclosed any finding of disparate impact.

The Decision: The Court of Appeals reversed. When the opinion began with a paean to the Fair Housing Act and the way it “strikes at the heart of the persistent racism that so deeply troubles our Nation,” something that the provision of more affordable housing can help to cure, it was apparent that the conclusion was foregone: judgment reversed.

The Court of Appeals was unable to disregard the bright light of the fact that out of 76 applications, the only time the City had denied a zone change in the past three years was this one. There could be no explanation for the denial other than racism, particularly in light of some of the communications made by neighbors to the City Council about the presumed criminal proclivities of the anticipated residents of the new development. Nor would the Court have anything to do with the trial court’s idea that the presence of similar developments elsewhere in Yuma obviated the problem. Indeed, it merely emphasized the fact that the City was racially divided and at least some of its residents wanted things to remain that way.

There appeared to be no principled opposition to the requested zone change. As the Court of Appeals put it, the record was replete with “code words” and “veiled references” for the Hispanic influx that the neighbors anticipated, turning the development into a “low-cost, high-crime neighborhood.” The case had no chance on appeal.

Practice Pointers:

  • Neighbors frequently oppose projects in their neighborhoods that are intended to be occupied by lower-income families. Local governments often bow to this political pressure. This decision may well serve to justify these projects, even in the face of neighbor opposition.
  • Language similar to the “code words” used by neighbors in this case is common among project opponents opposing higher-density projects. Local agencies need to be mindful of the exposure that this kind of language may impose if the projects are disapproved by the local agency.
  • At the very least, local agencies need to include sufficient data and facts in the record to support their decision as not being based on discriminatory rhetoric.