September 2021 Fair Housing Update

Rick Robinson

The Administration has been very active over the summer revising policies involving the Fair Housing Act.

First, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) entered into a first-of-its-kind collaborative agreement regarding fair housing and fair lending coordination. Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the two Agencies will focus on enhancing their enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, which HUD is primarily charged with administering and enforcing, and their oversight of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac (the Enterprises), and the Federal Home Loan Banks (collectively, the regulated entities), all of which FHFA regulates.

Additionally, HUD publish in the Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking entitled Restoring HUD’s Discriminatory Effects Standard. The publication proposes to rescind the Department’s 2020 disparate impact rule and restore the 2013 discriminatory effects rule. The discriminatory effects rule held that a policy had a discriminatory effect on a protected class if it did not serve a substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest or if a less discriminatory alternative could also serve that interest.

Finally, HUD published an interim final rule to restore implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing requirement. The publication provides a robust definition of the duty to affirmatively further fair housing, to which many HUD grantees must certify compliance.

Meanwhile, enforcement actions continue. Here are some cases of interest since we posted our last Fair Housing Update:

CALIFORNIA

HUD has reached a Voluntary Compliance/Conciliation Agreement with the City of Santa Maria, California, resolving allegations that the city’s enactment and enforcement of restrictions on housing for certain farmworkers visa-holders in residential areas of the city violated the Fair Housing Act, as well as other laws. Read the agreement.

Also in California, HUD reached an apartment complex resolving Fair Housing Act violations. In particular, the apartment complex failed to provide language access services to Vietnamese residents and retaliated against an employee for advocating for residents with limited English proficiency to receive oral interpretation services and translated vital documents. Read the agreement.

FLORIDA

HUD has charged the condo association at The Links South at Harbour Village in Ponce Inlet, Florida, with discrimination because of disability when it denied a reasonable accommodation request. Specifically, a resident’s respiratory disability asked to be able to keep their shoes outside their unit in order to limit exposure to outdoor allergens, chemicals, or pollutants inside their home. Read HUD’s Charge.

According to the Press Release, “The case came to HUD’s attention when a married couple filed a complaint of housing discrimination. The husband, a retired New York City sanitation superintendent, spent more than 400 days removing debris from the World Trade Center site after September 11th. As a result, he was diagnosed with upper respiratory disabilities and other medical conditions that are certified for coverage under the World Trade Center Health Program. HUD’s charge alleges that the condominium community’s homeowner association refused to allow the couple to keep their shoes outside the front door to prevent tracking in contaminants that negatively impact the husband due to his disability. The Charge further alleges that the couple provided medical documentation from the husband’s physician advising of the need to keep their home free from outdoor allergens, chemicals, or pollutants. Nevertheless, the homeowner association refused to grant the couple’s accommodation request, and instead made repeated demands for further documentation.

NEW YORK

HUD charged a landlord in Niagara Falls, New York, with violating the Fair Housing Act by denying a tenant’s reasonable accommodation request to keep an assistance animal and retaliating against the tenant by evicting her. Read HUD’s charge.

The charge alleges that the owner of a Niagara Falls apartment complex refused to allow a woman with mental health disabilities to keep an assistance animal despite providing a physician’s letter attesting to her need for the accommodation. The charge alleges further that the owner refused to allow the woman to live with the animal and subsequently evicted her, claiming that the dog had displayed aggressive behavior and was not a legitimate assistance animal.

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About Rick Robinson

Well-known industry professional Rick Robinson has joined ManufacturedHomes.com to become its Executive Vice President of Industry Relations. In that role, the former General Counsel/Senior Vice President of State and Local Affairs for the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) will be working to bring a new level of consumer technology to those buying homes and residing in communities.
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