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Fair Housing, Zoning and Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: What is Required?. North Carolina Human Relations Commission 1318 Mail Service Center Raleigh, NC 27609 (919) 807-4420 1-866-324-7474 (toll free) http://www.doa.state.nc.us/hrc. Fair Housing Project

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Fair Housing, Zoning and Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: What is Required?

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Fair Housing, Zoning and Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: What is Required?

North Carolina

Human Relations Commission

1318 Mail Service Center

Raleigh, NC 27609

(919) 807-4420

1-866-324-7474 (toll free)


Fair Housing Project

Legal Aid of North Carolina

Post Office Box 26087

Raleigh, NC 27611


The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and finding of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

The material in this presentation is for information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Fair Housing Laws

Fair Housing Act

42 U.S.C. §3601, et seq.

Civil Rights Act of 1866

42 U.S.C. § 1981

Title VI of Civil Rights Act of 1964

42 U.S.C. §2000d, et seq.

Sec. 109, Housing & Comm. Dev. Act of 1974

42 U.S.C. §5309

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

42 U.S.C. §1201, et seq.

Sec. 504, Rehabilitation Act of 1973

29 U.S.C. §794

North Carolina State Fair Housing Act

N.C. Gen. Stat. §41A-1

Fair Housing Act

FHA passed April 1968


De jure racial discrimination in housing

Housing segregation based on race

Civil Rights Movement

Kerner Commission (1968)

“our nation is moving toward two societies, one Black, one white – separate and unequal”

FHA Goals

Non-discrimination based on 7 “protected classes”

Race, color, religion, national origin (1968)

Sex (1974)

Disability, familial status (1988)

Ending segregation

Originally focused on racial & national origin

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing:HUD Obligations

Administer programs “in a manner affirmatively to further the policies” of the Fair Housing Act

42 U.S.C. §3608(e)(5)

Do “more than simply refrain from discriminating;” must also “assist in ending discrimination & segregation”

NAACP v. Sec. of HUD, 817 F.2d 149 (1st Cir. 1987)

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing:Grantee Obligations

CDBG grants “shall be made only if the grantee certifies” that

“the grant will be conducted and administered in conformity with” the FHA

“the grantee will affirmatively further fair housing.”

42 U.S.C. §5304(b)(2)

Also applies to HOME, ESG, HOPWA, NSP funds

Applies to PHAs

Applies to subgrantees/subrecipients

AFFH: What Has Been Required?

No regulatory definition of AFFH

But rule has been proposed

78 Fed. Reg. 139 (7/19/13), pp. 43710-43743

Fair Housing Planning Guide Req’ts

Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI)

Take appropriate actions to overcome effects of any impediments identified

Maintain records reflecting analysis & actions taken


AFFH: What Has Been Required?

HUD Fair Housing Planning Guide

Affordable housing vs. fair housing activities

Not enough to build or rehab low/mod housing

Primarily symbolic activities not enough

E.g. FH poster contests

ADC v. Westchester County:Plaintiff’s Allegations

  • County received > $52 million from 2000-06

  • County certified meeting AFFH obligations

  • County did not meet AFFH

    • AI did not ID any impediments based on race, color, national origin

    • AI did not mention housing discrimination or segregation

ADC v. Westchester:County’s Response

Race is not required to be considered

Income is a better proxy than race for determining needs

Race is “not among the most challenging impediments” in County

ADC v. Westchester:Court Rulings

FHA goal = end discrimination & segregation

FH Planning Guide is “persuasive”

Must consider race in AI & AFFH

AFFH is not “mere boilerplate formality”

Must take “appropriate” actions & maintain records

Westchester made > 1,000 “false or fraudulent” certifications

“Utterly failed” to meet obligations

Need to consider where affordable housing is placed

ADC v. Westchester:Settlement Agreement

County to develop 750 affordable units

660 in predominantly white cities

<3% African American and <7% Latino

County acknowledges it can sue cities who resist

Conduct new AI to comply w/ Planning Guide

HUD Monitor to oversee compliance

Return $30 million to HUD

$7.5 million to ADC

Supply additional $30 million for integrative units

Pay $2.5 million attorney’s fees & costs

ADC v. Westchester:Implications for HUD Recipients

  • Review your AI

    • Make sure up-to-date (last 5 yrs.)

    • Addresses all protected classes, including race, color & national origin

    • Involve local community & groups

  • Address segregation in addition to discrimination

  • Hold sub-recipients accountable

    • Cities, towns, etc., must also AFFH

Examples of Local FH Activities

Update local FH laws w/ add’l protected classes

e.g. affordable housing as protected class

Support accessibility & visitability

Train City staff, officials, landlords & public in FH law

Education & outreach to promote FH, knowledge of LL/tenant laws & awareness of disparate impact of certain policies (e.g. criminal background screening)

Establish FH complaint processes

Affirmative marketing

Ensure land use, zoning, occupancy codes are FH compliant

FH testing

HUD’s Proposed AFFH Reg.

  • Proposed rule published July 19, 2013

    • 78 Fed. Reg. 139, pp. 43710-43743

  • HUD’s Overall Goals:

    • Increase transparency w/ public involvement & link to public investment plans

    • Improve compliance so grantees know req’ts & standards

    • Reduce data collection costs

    • Synchronize assessment process & tie to ConPlan & PHA planning

    • Encourage regional approaches

HUD’s Proposed AFFH Reg.

  • HUD’s Fair Housing Goals:

    • Reduce segregation

    • Eliminate racially & ethnically concentrated areas of poverty

    • Reduce disparities in access to imp’t community assets & stressors

    • Narrow gaps between protected classes/address disproportionate housing needs

Proposed AFFH Definition

“taking proactive steps beyond simply combating discrimination to foster more inclusive communities and access to community assets for all persons protected by the FHA. More specifically, it means taking steps to proactively address significant disparities in access to community assets, to overcome segregated living patterns and support and promote integrated communities, to end racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty, and to foster and maintain compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws.”

Changes w/ Proposed AFFH Reg.

  • AI Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH)

  • AFH uses HUD-supplied data

  • AFH submitted to HUD

    • 270 days b/4 year prior to 3 or 5 yrConPlan

  • HUD has 60 days to notify of non-acceptance

    • Acceptance ≠ met AFFH req’t

  • Incorporate FH goals into planning

    • ConPlan, PHA Plan, Annual Action Plan, Capital Fund Plan

  • Req’d every 5 yrs (every year for PHAs)

Proposed AFFH Reg: Data to be Provided by HUD

  • Demographics of community

  • Patterns of integration & segregation

  • Racially & ethnically concentrated areas of poverty (RCAP/ECAP)

  • Disparities in access to community assets & stressors

    • schools, jobs, transportation, recreation, social services, safe streets, health hazard exposure

  • Disproportionate housing needs based on protected classes

    • Housing cost burdens, overcrowding, substandard housing

Proposed AFFH Reg: AFH Elements

  • Summary of FH issues & capacity to address

    • Incl. FH enforcement & outreach capacity

  • Analysis of data

    • HUD provided + can add own from community

  • Assessments of determinants of FH issues

    • Using HUD-supplied tool

  • ID of FH priorities & general goals

    • Justify prioritization

  • Summary of community participation

Federal FH Act:Types of Property Covered

The FHA broadly applies to "dwellings,” which includes almost every residential rental unit.

Single and Multi-family housing

houses, apartments & condos

Group homes


Migrant housing

Assisted living housing

Long-term transient lodging

Refusal to sell, rent, negotiate, or “otherwise make unavailable or deny” a dwelling

Discriminate in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities

Statements indicating preference or limitation

Coerce, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with a person’s right to fair housing

What Acts are Prohibited?

Fair Housing Applies to Zoning

  • “Otherwise make unavailable”

    • Includes restrictive zoning

  • As a result, zoning boards, municipalities, and other gov’t entities that take actions in violation of the FHA will be liable

Legislative Intent of FHA

“The Committee intends that the prohibition against discrimination against those with handicaps apply to zoning decisions and practices. The Act is intended to prohibit the application of special requirements through land-use regulations, restrictive covenants, and conditional or special use permits that have the effect of limiting the ability of such individuals to live in the residence of their choice in the community.”

H. Rep. No. 100-711, at 24 (1988)

Policies underlying FHA & zoning


Increase housing choice & opportunities


Olmstead decision

Allow people w/ disabilities to live in community settings


Respect unique needs & circumstances

What Type of Discrimination is Illegal?

Intentional discrimination/disparate treatment

Policies that have discriminatory effect/disparate impact

Incl. zoning laws or decisions

HUD issued regulation 2/15/13

Denial of reasonable accommodation for person w/ disability

Incl. denials by gov’t officials

Statements indicating preference/limitation

Disability: Definition

  • Physical and / or mental impairment which substantially limits 1 or more major life activities, or

  • Record of having such impairment, or

  • Being regarded as having such impairment

  • Includes people associated with or residing with person meeting definition

Disability: Examples

  • Mobility impairments

  • Sensory impairments

  • Mental illness

  • HIV positive or AIDS

  • Former drug abuse

  • Other physical / mental impairments

Reasonable Accommodations

  • Changes in “rules, policies, practices, or services when … necessary to afford … equal opportunity to use & enjoy dwelling”

  • Can require proof of covered disability

  • Change must be related to disability

  • Can be requested at any time

  • Not “reasonable” if “undue burden” on housing provider or “fundamental alteration” of provision of housing

RAs & Zoning

FHA mandates that zoning officials “change, waive, or make exceptions in their zoning rules to afford people with disabilities the same opportunity to housing as those who are without disabilities.”

Hovsons Inc. v. Township of Brick,

89 F.3d 1096, 1104 (3d Cir. 1996)

RAs: Examples

  • Allow nursing home to operate in mixed residential zone

  • Waive minimum side yard req’t

  • Variance to allow facility for people with disabilities in commercial/industrial district

  • Allow 8-person home (vs. 6-person)

  • Exception to dispersion requirement


Direct Threat. The FHA does not require a tenancy that would be a “direct threat” to the health or safety of other individuals, or result in substantial damage to the property of others, unless a reasonable accommodation could eliminate the threat.

Drug use. The current use of illegal drugs is excluded from the definition of disability.

Examples of Possible Intentional Discrimination

Denial of building, renovation, special use permit or re-zoning based on objections to residents of the development or home

Based on race, nat’l origin, fam. status, or disability

Example: developer denied zoning to build racially diverse subsidized multifamily housing in white area of town

Moratorium on new adult care facilities w/o justification

Limitation on geographical proximity, where imposed in response to community fears & concerns about property values

Treating a group home for people with disabilities different than a “family” home, even when the group home meets the “family” home legal definition.

Examples ofPossible Intentional Discrimination (cont’d)

Application of fire code to group home for persons with mental illness who had no problems evacuating

Conditioning group home permit on 24-hour supervision and establishment of “community advisory committee”

Requiring certificate of occupancy for group home for people with disabilities only (not for other group homes)

Requiring notice to neighbors of a group home’s existence where not required for other residential units

Examples of Possible Disparate Impact (Discriminatory Effect)

Requiring group homes include only persons who are mobile and capable of exiting a building and following instructions

Dispersion requirement for group homes

Limitation on # of unrelated persons allowed to live together

Examples of Interference, Coercion, or Intimidation

Denial of special use permit, where reason for denial proven to be pretext

Weekly citations for noise, parking, zoning, etc., where town had been lax, plus evidence of discriminatory statements


  • N.C. Gen. Statutes Ch. 41A

    • Also NC Real Estate Licensing Act

      • N.C.A.C. Title 21, §58A-1601

  • Essentially mirrors Federal FHA:

    • Covers all Federal protected classes;

    • Applies to same properties and transactions;

    • Prohibits the same discriminatory acts.

  • In addition, 2009 amendments added another protected class NOT covered by Fed. FHA


Affordable Housing as a Protected Class for Land-Use Decisions

§ 41A-4(g) ”It is an unlawful discriminatory housing practice to discriminate in land-use decisions or in the permitting of development based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicapping condition, familial status, or, except as otherwise provided by law, the fact that a development or proposed development contains affordable housing units for families or individuals with incomes below eighty percent (80%) of area median income. It is not a violation of this Chapter if land-use decisions or permitting of development is based on considerations of limiting high concentrations of affordable housing.”


What It Means

  • Government bodies involved in land-use planning and regulation cannot refuse approval or otherwise discriminate against proposals because they include affordable housing.

    • At a minimum, this section covers decisions by zoning boards, planning boards, county commissions and municipal councils.

    • Probably also applies to municipal utilities, highway and other transportation planning, and soil and water districts.


What It Means (cont’d.)

  • Affordable Housing is defined as housing intended for families or individuals with incomes less than 80% of median income in the area.

    • Does not define the size of the area used to determine median income (but based on HUD definition, which uses MSA).


What It Means (cont’d.)

  • Does not state how to determine if housing is “for” such families.

  • Standard definition of “affordable housing” is 30% of annual income.

What It Means (still cont’d)

  • Allows land-use planners to limit “high concentrations” of affordable housing.

    • Doesn’t define “high concentrations.”

    • New HUD data supplied for the Fair Housing Assessments will include numbers on racially concentrated areas of poverty(see slide 20)


What It Doesn’t Mean

Does not mean affordable housing development must be approved.

Does not mean wealthy and poor neighborhoods must receive identical services, such as water & sewer.

Does not mean new developments must include affordable housing.

Landlords do not have to accept Section 8 vouchers or other housing subsidies.


What We Don’t Know

  • Who can bring suit (standing)

    • FHA states “any person injured by a discriminatory practice” may sue.

    • Standing under the FHA is usually construed broadly to allow people to bring suit, but does not stretch infinitely.

    • For purposes of its investigations, NCHRC will construe standing broadly until otherwise instructed by the courts or legislature.


What We Don’t Know (cont’d.)

How will courts define “area”, “for” poor families, and “high concentrations”?

How will this affect political questions such as annexation and boundary lines?


Statute of Limitations

  • North Carolina Act:

    • 1 year from date of last act to file an NCHRC complaint

    • 1 year from date of last act or Right to Sue letter to file a lawsuit

      (No requirement to file w/NCHRC first)

    • Filing a complaint with HUD or NCHRC stops the running of the time to file a lawsuit under the federal and state Fair Housing Act


Federal Act:

1 year from date of last act to file a HUD complaint

2 years from date of last act to file a lawsuit

Filing a complaint with HUD stops the running of the time to file a lawsuit under the federal and state Fair Housing Act

Statute of Limitations


Fair Housing Project

Legal Aid of NC



NC Human

Relations Commission

(919) 807-4420

1-866-324-7474 (toll free)


This seminar provides general information. For legal advice, please consult an attorney.

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