Housing and Community Grants:

HUD Needs to Enhance Its Requirements and Oversight of Jurisdictions' Fair Housing Plans

GAO-10-905: Published: Sep 14, 2010. Publicly Released: Oct 14, 2010.

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Pursuant to the Fair Housing Act, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations require grantees, such as cities, that receive federal funds through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) to further fair housing opportunities. In particular, grantees are required to prepare planning documents known as Analyses of Impediments (AI), which are to identify impediments to fair housing (such as restrictive zoning or segregated housing) and actions to overcome them. HUD has oversight responsibility for AIs. This report (1) assesses both the conformance of CDBG and HOME grantees AIs' with HUD guidance pertaining to their timeliness and content and their potential usefulness as planning tools and (2) identifies factors in HUD's requirements and oversight that may help explain any AI weaknesses. GAO requested AIs from a representative sample of the nearly 1,200 grantees, compared the 441 AIs received (95 percent response based on final sample of 466) with HUD guidance and conducted work at HUD headquarters and 10 offices nationwide.

On the basis of the 441 AIs reviewed, GAO estimates that 29 percent of all CDBG and HOME grantees' AIs were prepared in 2004 or earlier, including 11 percent from the 1990s, and thus may be outdated. HUD guidance recommends that grantees update their AIs at least every 5 years. GAO also did not receive AIs from 25 grantees, suggesting that, in some cases, the required documents may not be maintained, and several grantees provided documents that did not appear to be AIs because of their brevity and lack of content. GAO reviewed 60 of the current AIs (those dating from 2005 through 2010) and found that most of these documents included several key elements in the format suggested in HUD's guidance, such as the identification of impediments to fair housing and recommendations to overcome them. (See table below for common impediments identified in 30 of these 60 current AIs.) However, the vast majority of these 60 AIs did not include time frames for implementing their recommendations or the signatures of top elected officials, as HUD guidance recommends, raising questions about the AI's usefulness as a planning document. As a result, it is unclear whether the AI is an effective tool for grantees that receive federal CDBG and HOME funds to identify and address impediments to fair housing. HUD's limited regulatory requirements and oversight may help explain why many AIs are outdated or have other weaknesses. Specifically, HUD regulations do not establish requirements for updating AIs or their format, and grantees are not required to submit AIs to the department for review. A 2009 HUD internal study on AIs, department officials, and GAO's work at 10 offices identified critical deficiencies in these requirements. For example, HUD officials rarely request grantees' AIs during on-site reviews to assess their compliance with overall CDBG and HOME program requirements, limiting the department's capacity to assess AIs' timeliness and content. While HUD initiated a process to revise its AI regulatory requirements in 2009, what the rule will entail or when it will be completed is not clear. In the absence of a department-wide initiative to enhance AI requirements and oversight, many grantees may place a low priority on ensuring that their AIs serve as effective fair housing planning tools. GAO recommends that, through regulation, HUD require grantees to update their AIs periodically, follow a specific format, and submit them for review. HUD neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendations but noted recent efforts to improve compliance and oversight.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To facilitate efforts to measure grantees' progress in addressing identified impediments to fair housing and to help ensure transparency and accountability, as part of the AI format, HUD should require grantees to include time frames for implementing recommendations and the signatures of responsible officials.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, HUD published a proposed rule on July 19, 2013. Among other things, the proposed rule required grantees to complete more comprehensive Assessment of Fair Housing (which will replace the Analysis of Impediments) with actions the grantee plans to take within the next year that are signed by responsible officials.

    Recommendation: HUD should establish standards for grantees to follow in updating their AIs and the format that they should follow in preparing the documents.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, HUD published a proposed rule relating to requirements for affirmatively furthering fair housing on July 19, 2013. Among other things, the proposed rule would replace the Analysis of Impediments with an Assessment of Fair Housing with standardized data elements and format.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that grantees' AIs serve as an effective tool for grantees to identify and address impediments to fair housing, HUD should expeditiously complete its new regulation pertaining to the affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH) requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, HUD published a proposed rule relating to requirements intended to affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH) on July 19, 2013. Among other things, the proposed rule would provide grantees with a clearly articulated definition of AFFH; a prescribed assessment template (Assessment of Fair Housing) for identifying impediments to fair housing replacing the current Analysis of Impediments (AIs); nationally uniform data on patterns of integration and segregation; and better guidance and technical assistance.

    Recommendation: HUD should require, at a minimum, that grantees submit their AIs to the department on a routine basis and that HUD staff verify the timeliness of the documents, determine whether they adhere to established format requirements, assess the progress that grantees are achieving in addressing identified impediments, and help ensure the consistency between the AIs and other required grantee reports, such as the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, HUD published a proposed rule relating to requirements for affirmatively furthering fair housing on July 19, 2013. Among other things, the proposed rule would require grantees to submit their Assessment of Fair Housing report (which will replace the Analysis of Impediments) to HUD in advance of other required reports (such as the consolidated plan) so that these documents could inform strategies and actions in the other plans.

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