fresh voices from the front lines of change







A child in Baltimore’s Seton Hill neighborhood will on average die 19 years earlier than a child from the city’s Roland Park neighborhood. That’s the stark consequence of housing inequality.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday set out to reduce that likelihood. Through a “final rule,” the Department clarified how grant recipients must meet standards set in the Fair Housing Act of 1968 that have been inconsistently enforced since the law was signed. The regulations are designed to help communities receiving HUD funding to identify and reduce barriers to fair housing choices.

In a press call, HUD Secretary Julian Castro stated that the plan would “revitalize struggling communities” and “give people the chance to live in places where they can thrive.”

The final rule, referred to as “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” has four main goals:

● improving integrated living patterns and overcoming historic patterns of segregation;
● reducing racial and ethnic concentrations of poverty;
● reducing disparities by race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, or disability in access to community assets such as education, transit access, and employment, as well as exposure to environmental health hazards and other stressors that harm a person’s quality of life;
● responding to disproportionate housing needs by protected class.

HUD is set to provide all program participants with nationally uniform data on these four areas of focus as well as “outstanding discrimination findings.” Participants would then identify the “primary determinants influencing fair housing conditions, prioritize addressing these conditions, and set one or more goals for mitigating or addressing their determinants.” Essentially, it’s a partnership between local & state governments, public housing authorities, and the federal government to be more coherent about funding, goals, and necessary expectations.

The rule was implemented after HUD program participants in 2010 asked for “clearer guidance” and “more meaningful outcomes.”

Housing inequality is a huge problem in the United States. And its effects are stark. Harvard economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues found immense correlation to a child’s success later in life to their housing during formative years. In fact, Chetty estimates that vouchers allowing children to move out of low-poverty areas increases their lifetime earnings by about $302,000. The data also suggest that girls were 26 percent less likely to become single mothers.

Castro stated the ultimate goal of the rule: “A zip code should never prevent anyone from reaching their aspirations. Where a child grows up should not dictate where they end up.”

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