Persistent Impediments and the Geography of “Affirmatively Furthering” Fair Housing: The Case of Erie County, NY

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Despite the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, segregation and discrimination remain key characteristics of the American housing system. The Act sought to reverse decades of private and public sector policies that contributed to segregated neighborhoods and the exclusion of protected classes from equal access to housing. Under the Act, communities receiving funds from US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are required to “affirmatively further fair housing” (AFFH). This paper examines the AFFH mandate as operationalized by HUD grantees in Erie County, NY, by evaluating six Analysis of Impediments (AI) to Fair Housing reports prepared from 2004 to 2020 across various grantee geographies. Grantees were required to conduct an AI to identify public and private sector policies, regulations, and actions that represented barriers to accessing fair housing and develop actions to overcome them. This paper finds that in Erie County, the AI was an effective tool for identifying impediments across time and space. However, this paper also finds that the AI was not an effective tool for enforcement of recommended proposed actions to overcome the identified impediments. Finally, the paper concludes that the fragmented geography of multiple municipal grantees within Erie County is likely a contributing factor to the persistence of policies and practices that maintain racial segregation and concentrated poverty in Erie County. At a time when HUD is rewriting the regulatory AFFH framework, it can learn from the shortcomings of the AI in Erie County to make new fair housing planning mechanisms more effective.

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Middle States Geographer

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