Santiago Fair Housing Measure Advances

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Assembly Bill 686 Bucks Trump Administration on Fair Housing Regulation Suspension

(Sacramento, CA) – Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), a host of co-authors, and housing advocates across California are applauding progress of a long-fought fair housing measure in the State Senate. Assembly Bill 686 was approved this afternoon in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee by a vote of 11-1.

"As the representative of the third poorest district in California yet also one of the most expensive areas, I refuse to stand complacently by and let President Trump and Secretary Carson drag us back to the days of segregation,” said Assemblymember Santiago.  “To watch the federal government throw important fair housing gains down the drain simply because they may be complicated for local governments is an insult to policymakers and poverty advocates who have worked on this issue for the past 50 years. AB 686 advancing today shows that even complicated planning and civil rights measures can progress when all possible stakeholders are treated with respect and dignity.”

In January of this year, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development published a notice in the Federal Register, saying that it will suspend, until 2020, an Obama Administration rule designed to push communities to actively analyze any historical segregated low-income housing patterns and to propose solutions to mitigate this persistent issue.

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (known as the Fair Housing Act) prohibits discrimination in the rental, sale, or financing of housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, and disability. In addition to prohibiting discrimination, the Act includes a powerful affirmative mandate that federal agencies actively work to dismantle segregation and create equal housing opportunities, known as the affirmatively furthering fair housing or “AFFH” obligation. Historically, the AFFH obligation has been unenforced by federal and state agencies.

Expecting federal action of this sort, Assemblymember Santiago introduced Assembly Bill 686 last year to maintain California’s commitment to fair housing.  The measure, sponsored by a broad coalition including the Western Center on Law & Poverty, Public Advocates, and the National Housing Law Project, is intended to oppose more recent federal efforts in this arena – like the action by HUD in January. AB 686 has gained the co-authorship of other state legislators including Senators Scott Weiner and Bob Hertzberg, and Assemblymembers David Chiu, Cristina Garcia, and Todd Gloria.

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which is meant in part to be the state equivalent of the federal FHA, does not explicitly include an obligation for federal and local agencies to affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH) like that in the federal Fair Housing Act. Given the federal government’s action and several measures introduced in Congress, advocates believe the time has come to enact a state AFFH law.

Sam Tepperman-Gelfant, Deputy Managing Attorney of Public Advocates and a co-sponsor of AB 686 said, “By advancing an affirmative fair housing commitment through the Legislature, we’re sending a message to Washington that California can and will hold the line against segregation and exclusion in our communities and regions. We applaud Assemblymember Santiago's leadership on this critical issue.”

"AB 686 will allow California to reject the backwards-looking policies emanating from Washington, to embrace the vision of inclusion put forward by the Obama Administration, and to extend this vision in a way that gives all Californians a meaningful shot at opportunity,” saidAnya Lawler, Policy Advocate for the Western Center on Law & Poverty.

Shamus Roller, Executive Director of the National Housing Law Project added that "At a time when many hard-fought civil rights gains are at risk, California must lead the fight to deliver opportunity for all families and communities.  We thank Assemblymember Santiago for his ongoing work on this important bill.”

Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration have long noted that they want to see this important tool for combating discrimination overturned.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Ben Carson, has called it “Socialist” and “government-engineering.”  

AB 686 will next be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks.

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago is the Chair of the Assembly’s Communications and Conveyance Committee. He represents the 53rd District composed of the cities of Los Angeles, Huntington Park, and Vernon.

CONTACT: Jackie.Koenig@asm.ca.gov, (916) 319-2053