In 1968, Congress established the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination in housing sales, rentals, and financing based on race, religion, and national origin. Over time the law expanded its protections to include discrimination based on sex, disability, and familial status.
Assembly Bill 686 (2018) goes beyond the Fair Housing Act by establishing new requirements within Government Code Section 65583 that mandate local general plans to affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH) to create real housing choice rather than just prevent discrimination. AB 686 requires each city and county to take actions to overcome patterns of segregation, address disparities in housing needs and access to opportunity, and foster inclusive communities. Key housing element changes triggered by AB 686 include:
- Outreach. A diligent effort must be made to equitably include all community stakeholders in the housing element public participation process.
- Assessment of Fair Housing. All housing elements must include an assessment of fair housing within the housing needs section. This assessment should include an analysis of housing issues, segregation, trends, and current practices.
- Sites Analysis. Local jurisdictions must evaluate and address how particular sites available for housing development will meet the needs of households at all income levels and will affirmatively further fair housing by replacing segregated living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity. The sites inventory assessment must ensure available sites for lower-income housing are located equitably across the community with fair access to opportunities and resources.
- Priorities, Goals, and Actions. Based on findings from the needs assessment and the site inventory analysis with respect to AFFH, local jurisdictions are required to assess contributing factors to fair housing barriers and adopt policies with programs that remediate identified fair housing issues and/or further promote fair housing.
Implementation Programs and Actions. Under AB 686, all cities and counties are required to administer programs and activities to proactively promote fair housing and are restricted from taking any action that is materially inconsistent with this obligation. Housing element performance programs must:
- Address significant disparities in housing needs and lack of opportunity;
- Replace segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns;
- Transform racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity; and
- Foster and maintain compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws.
HCD encourages jurisdictions to use a variety of actions to accomplish these goals, including enhancing housing mobility strategies, encouraging new affordable housing in high resource areas, improving place-based strategies to encourage community conservation and revitalization, and protecting existing residents from displacement.
A survey conducted for the San Joaquin Valley Regional Early Action Planning (REAP) Report asked city and county staff a number of questions relevant to AFFH. Below is a summary of the questions and the 41 responses.
- Prioritizing Projects and Improvements in Disadvantaged Areas. Seventy percent of (33) respondents said that public works projects or service improvements designed to better serve disadvantaged areas are already given priority in their policies.
- Impediments to Fair Housing. The survey asked participants to provide feedback on a list of fair housing issues by scoring each on a seven-point scale from “Not at all Important” to “Extremely Important” in their city or county.
- Of the 32 responses to this question, the topics with the highest scores include: disproportionate housing needs/displacement risk (4.94 average); disparities in access to opportunity (4.53 average); and racially concentrated areas of poverty and affluence (4.25 average).
- Fair housing enforcement and outreach capacity (4.19 average); segregation and integration (4.13 average); and supplemental data (3.87 average) were, on average, ranked as less-notable impediments to fair housing.
- Technical Assistance. The survey asked participants to rate topics to indicate their interest in technical assistance on the matter. Of the 31 responses to this question, 13 indicated they would likely or very likely need technical assistance on AFFH and another 13 indicated that they were unsure. Only five participants indicated they were unlikely to need assistance.
- AFFH Programs. Only two of 30 respondents indicated they had AFFH programs in place, and another three indicated that changes were in progress, when asked if AFFH programs have been created to promote housing production. Twenty-five participants indicated that the jurisdiction had no AFFH programs.
Issues. The San Joaquin MPO directors have been tracking increasingly worrisome patterns of gentrification and displacement in the Valley, and the Madera County Transportation Commission director noted that lower income communities tend to be geographically isolated in unincorporated areas away from most services.
Challenges. Specific to the sites analysis, one MPO director indicated that there are often challenges in finding sites near amenities, while another believes that it is challenging to find sites for multifamily housing. Generally, both Valley stakeholders and MPO directors identified limited staff capacity and funding as challenges to housing production.
Successes. As mentioned in the Annual Progress Reports section, Valley stakeholders believe that housing production is more successful when local planners have the resources and capacity to understand the housing programs and State requirements and to provide help with individual project applications.
Opportunities. With limited staff capacity and funding on the local level, MPO directors voiced support for technical assistance programs to assist jurisdictions update their housing elements, complete other planning projects, and meet HCD requirements, including AFFH.
Relevant State Law
California Government Code Section 65583 governs housing elements in California.
AB 686 (2018) established requirements that expand and protect a jurisdictions duty to AFFH, including the following additions to State law:
- Government Code 8899.50 requires AFFH in all housing and community development programs of public entities.
- Government Code 65583(c)(5) requires housing elements to include a program to AFFH.
- Government Code 65583(c)(10) requires housing elements to include an analysis of Fair Housing in the Housing Element. For more information on the specifics required of this analysis, see the AFFH Guidelines listed in the links below.
- Government Code 65583.2(a) requires the housing element sites inventory analysis to be consistent with AFFH and the Assessment of Fair Housing.
AFFH Data Viewer. The Data Viewer includes mapped data layers in six categories:
- Fair housing enforcement and outreach capacity
- Segregation and integration
- Disparities in access to opportunity
- Disproportionate housing needs/displacement risk
- Racially concentrated areas of poverty and affluence
- Supplemental data
To date, HCD has certified few sixth-cycle housing elements with AFFH analysis. Nevertheless, there appear to be several adopted housing elements with AFFH analyses, based on HCD comments from the 60-day review of draft housing elements. For example, HCD provided comments to the City of San Diego, which has revised and resubmitted its AFFH analysis for review. Below are links to four example sixth-cycle housing elements:
Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice Examples
HUD: How to Collaborate.
State of California, 2020 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice
Stanislaus County, Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice
City of Madera, Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice
City of Tulare, Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice
Alameda County, Fair Housing Consortium Draft Analysis of Impediments