CLIENT – A large suburban county located in New York with a population of over 920,000 citizens and more than 45 municipalities.
CHALLENGE – A lawsuit was filed against the county alleging that the county had falsely certified that it was affirmatively furthering fair housing. This certification being a condition of the county’s receipt of CDBG funds, the suit was brought under the False Claims Act.
The county settled the case and agreed to pay over $60 million, produce 750 units of new fair and affordable housing, conduct an AI, and provide an implementation plan specifically describing how the identified impediments would be overcome. The county’s initial AI was prepared by a local consulting firm specializing in development and land use planning, not one with experience with HUD’s programs. Presented with a draft of the firm’s report, HUD found it to be lacking the detailed analysis required by the AI.
SOLUTION – The county contracted with WFN Consulting to conduct a revision of the county’s Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI).
RESULT – The quality of the data provided in WFN’s AI was more multi-disciplinary and detailed. The WFN report drilled down deeper to focus on individual census tracts, rather than data for the metropolitan area as a whole. WFN recognized the important and often subtle distinctions among the county’s municipalities, and individually analyzed data for each of them. WFN staff met with or otherwise contacted the mayors of all towns and villages to solicit their comments and input. Citizen participation increased dramatically as WFN doubled the number of public meetings held to gather resident input, and the response rate to WFN’s Fair Housing Survey increased to over 850 responses – more than 30 times the number of survey responses obtained by the previous firm.
Under the settlement order, the county was required to develop a detailed implementation plan to accompany its AI. While the county continues to refine its implementation plan, HUD’s review of WFN’s AI was favorable, citing data presented “across a range of issues” and its correct identification of “issues central to furthering fair housing choice.”
WFN’s experience in managing CDBG and other federal programs for client jurisdictions gives us the unique advantage of knowing how to engage low- and moderate-income citizens, where to find the data required to meet HUD’s standards, which information should be included in the reporting, and understanding how communities can use HUD’s CPD programs and funds to implement practical and meaningful fair housing plans. Because of the landmark lawsuit that precipitated WFN’s re-write of the county’s AI and HUD’s intense scrutiny of the final document, the county’s AI ended up setting the standard for future AIs. No other firm is better prepared to assist a jurisdiction with an AI that will meet HUD’s new, heightened standards.