March 31, 2000

Cuomo Issues Policy Directive to Increase Racial and Economic Integration of Public Housing

Washington — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo issued a policy directive designed to break down concentration of public housing residents by race and income and increase racial, ethnic and economic integration in public housing developments where 1.3 million families live.

Under the policy, known as desconcentration, the nation's 3,200 public housing authorities will house residents with different income levels in the same buildings and apartment developments. This will prevent a concentration of the poorest families in certain buildings and developments, as well as a concentration of families with somewhat higher incomes in other buildings and developments.

Cuomo's policy directive ending public housing segregation also promotes integration by requiring public housing authorities to ensure that their admissions policies "affirmatively further fair housing to reduce racial and national origin concentrations." These efforts may include: 1) Marketing of public housing in particular neighborhoods to families from groups that don't typically live in those neighborhoods. 2) Providing more consultation and information about housing opportunities to applicants for public housing. 3) Providing more supportive services and amenities to public housing developments to make them more attractive to new residents.

"Segregation is an ugly part of our past that has no place in the 21st century," Cuomo said. "If we are never to become the One America envisioned by President Clinton and achieve Martin Luther King's dream of justice and equality, we need to come together as neighbors and not remain apart."

The One America commitment made by President Clinton and Vice President Gore says that "the federal government should lead the way in word and deed" in ensuring that families not be segregated by race or income.

Under the new deconcen-tration policy, which HUD will implement through a regulation, housing authorities will be required to annually classify buildings and prospective tenants by incomes. This new directive will not permit the concentration of relatively low-income families in some buildings and higher income families in other buildings. Instead, authorities will be required to fill vacancies in lower-income buildings with higher income residents and, similarly, vacancies in its higher-income buildings with lower-income applicants.

In order to achieve income deconcentration, housing authorities will be allowed to temporarily skip particular families on their waiting lists.

No families currently in a public housing unit or receiving a Section 8 rental assistance voucher will lose assistance as a result of HUD's new policy.

If a housing authority fails to reduce concentrations of particular groups or create new segregation, HUD will move to challenge the housing author-ity's civil rights certification under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and/or the Fair Housing Act of 1968. If a housing authority refuses to accept a voluntary compliance agreement to make needed changes, HUD can reduce aid to the authority or —under the most extreme circumstances— seek to take control of the management of the housing authority.

Return to Frontpage