Fair Housing Toolkit

Outdated: being updated

Considering senior housing or townhouse development but need guidance on civil rights laws? Interested in how to engage residents in your planning process? Looking to increase diversity or address cultural tensions? Confused by the wide range of disability and access requirements for development?

The Fair Housing Toolkit brings together available resources to help appointed and elected leaders, municipal planning, housing and development officials, developers, citizen board members, and other volunteers understand how to affirmatively further fair housing.

What does this Toolkit offer?

The Toolkit also provides:

For each topic area, the Toolkit presents a wide variety of resources to overcome identified barriers to fair housing.  The Toolkit:

  • Explains the need based in an understanding of longstanding patterns of racial segregation and unequal access to the benefits of living in Greater Boston – transportation, education, jobs, quality of life,
  • Describes the legal and/or regulatory underpinnings for each topic area,
  • Introduces resources including guidebooks, websites, and organization partners, and
  • Recommends strategic actions aimed to meet the legal obligation to affirmatively further fair housing.

The compilation of this Toolkit was funded through the Sustainable Communities Program to support the implementation of MetroFuture, informed by the following:

  • The Fair Housing and Equity Assessment (FHEA) [link] identifies barriers to achieving the vision. The grant requires that the findings of the FHEA must inform the regional planning effort and the decisions, priorities and investments that flow from it.
  • The State of Equity in Metro Boston provides baseline indicators to measure progress towards MetroFuture goals through 2030.
  • The Regional Housing Plan (RHP) describes the nature and extent of Greater Boston’s unmet housing needs and evolving challenges. It identifies the constraints and opportunities that enable, or prevent, the region from accommodating MAPC’s projected 2030 housing requirements consistent with the MetroFuture vision.

Why is this Toolkit needed?

The specific obligation to affirmatively further fair housing is linked to programs that are designed to create affordable housing.  However, HUD’s Fair Housing Planning Guide and established case law make it clear that fair housing planning must consider not only the fair housing conditions in affordable housing, but for all private sector actions, omissions, and decisions that restrict housing choice.

“Fair housing” and “affordable housing” are distinctly separate concepts in law and public policy, but they are interrelated.  The fair housing statutes [link to legal page] were enacted to ensure that members of the protected classes – regardless of income or need for assisted housing – are free to rent or buy housing without discrimination.  Following that principle, the FHEA examines conditions in the housing market, whether or not they affect access to assisted housing.

The FHEA also considers the historic patterns of residential segregation, such as public and assisted housing siting decisions, admission policies that assigned families to assisted housing based on race and color, and exclusion of people of color from federal mortgage insurance and homeowner programs.  The obligation to further fair housing expressed in Title VIII was enacted to reverse the fair housing conditions resulting from that history in Boston and other places.

“Without an adequate supply of housing that is affordable and accessible to members of protected classes in healthy communities offering good schools and employment opportunities, people of color will continue to face barriers to meaningful choice in housing opportunity.  Discrimination, in part, can be reduced by the provision of housing that is affordable for all income groups, especially low and moderate income households, in all communities.  As a result, many of the strategies to eliminate discrimination are tied to expanding affordable housing opportunity in communities throughout the metropolitan area.”¹

¹ MAPC.  Fair Housing Equity Assessment.  2013.  P5

What is regional equity?

MAPC defines equity as fair access to opportunities for people from all communities, so that everyone in the region can achieve the full potential they envision for themselves.

MetroFuture, the region’s plan for growth through the year 2030, sets forth a common vision of an equitable region where “all people have full and equal access to opportunities that enable them to attain their full potential.” MetroFuture  works to achieve this vision by eliminating unfair, preventable, and systematic differences between groups that not only harm individuals and families, but threaten the vibrancy of our region.  Equity is at the heart of the MetroFuture goals for a healthy, secure, and prosperous future for Metro Boston. Equity is a fundamental value of our society.  The region’s future stability and prosperity depend on it.

The following describes each toolkit section, including the research sections.

Civic Engagement
This section describes the role of resident involvement in efforts to increase awareness of fair housing at the local level, assist municipalities in defining needs, and insure issues and complaints are addressed.  It presents resources for networking and building local committees along with examples of current efforts from area municipalities.

Master Plans and Assessments of Fair Housing
This section describes the master plan, the Analysis of Impediments and the Assessment of Fair Housing (HUD has proposed a new rule which will replace the Analysis of Impediment to Fair Housing).    These planning tools can promote equal opportunity at the local and regional levels.  These strategic documents can provide resources that help protect the right to fair housing for protected classes with proactive strategies; identification of housing needs for developers; and guidance for zoning and permitting decisions.

Zoning to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing
This section demonstrates the fair housing implications of zoning and land use practices to help the planning board, zoning board and municipal planning staff meet the obligation to affirmatively further fair housing through zoning practices.

Affirmative Marketing
This section presents resources for reaching a broad network of people and organizations to market available housing units and build connections with target populations within and beyond municipal borders.

Disparate Impact
This section describes how to conduct a disparate impact analysis, introduces data sets useful for this purpose, and provides examples from practice and case law of the relevance to municipal planning.

Language Assessment and Services
This section provides resources to assist municipalities and housing developers to effectively reach out to and communicate with individuals whose primary language is not English and may be linguistically isolated.

Accessibility for People with Disabilities: Zoning for Group Homes
This section reviews accessibility through group homes to insure groups of unrelated persons with disabilities are treated as similar groups of unrelated persons without disabilities.  The section also explains municipal responsibility to grant reasonable accommodations, modifications or exceptions to rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford persons with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy a dwelling.

Increasing Accessible Housing through Visitability and Universal Design Standards
This section will enable planners to understand how to increase accessible housing for people with disabilities in their municipality through Visitability initiatives. It also addresses on-going efforts in Universal Design.

Accessibility for People with Disabilities: Scoping and Coverage
This section provides a resource to municipal planners and developers to understand the accessibility regulations, guidelines and standards that must be evaluated for housing development projects.

Fair Housing Resources
This section contains links to documents and websites that provide information about federal and state fair housing and anti-discrimination laws as well as resources on fair housing access, advocacy, and enforcement.

Fair Housing Case Law
The judicial system’s interpretation of the rules and regulations governing fair housing establishes court precedents that serve as important guidance for municipalities and developers striving to affirmatively further fair housing.

Relevant Fair Housing Terms
This glossary defines terms in relation to fair housing to create a shared foundation for the Toolkit’s users. Abbreviations that are commonly used as part of the conversation on fair housing are also defined in this section.

Fair Housing Laws, Regulations and Executive Orders
This section presents federal and state rules, regulations and executive orders that inform municipalities and developers of their fair housing obligations and the rights of protected classes. Many of these statutes were successful in generating specialized resources, such as data to aid organizations, government entities and individuals in affirmatively furthering fair housing.