Volume 88, Number 6

December 2013

Affirmatively Further: Reviving the Fair Housing Act’s Integrationist Purpose

Austin W. King

This Note seeks to contribute to the revival of an underutilized section of the Fair Housing Act intended not just to ban individual acts of discrimination but also to achieve integrated residential neighborhoods. The gulf between lofty, vague federal policy and the local governments responsible for zoning, planning, and housing siting decisions, however, has stymied this pro-integration purpose. Although all state and most local governments are required to certify that they are meeting their obligation to “affirmatively further fair housing,” this certification has rarely risen above mere boilerplate. Building on recent litigation that reinvigorated the Act’s positive purpose with some skeletal substance and a new proposed rule seeking to improve procedural compliance, this Note proposes an expanded federal rule to define meaningfully this obligation through concrete, quantitative benchmarks. In the absence of such an expanded rule, this Note suggests guidance on how a court might evaluate compliance with this capacious statutory standard by using housing segregation data in a burden-shifting framework. This Note concludes by addressing workability and constitutionality concerns, evaluating practical hurdles, and testing the proposed rule against the Roberts Court’s jurisprudence on equal protection and federalism. The ultimate purpose is a pragmatic program to achieve the still-unrealized goal that animated the Act’s passage: a truly integrated nation.