Proposed Federal AFFH Rule Could Exacerbate Racial Disparity in NJ’s Homeless Population

NJ Can Work to Decrease Racial Disparity in Local Communities & Fight for Housing Justice and Against Roll Back in Federal Policy

The racial inequity in New Jersey’s population experiencing homelessness is caused by structural problems along with current behaviors.

New Jersey has a long history of racial segregation which originated in large part through policies enforced by the federal government.

In October 2019, Monarch Housing convened a two-day summit focused on Building Racial Equity in New Jersey’s Homeless Service System. The Building Racial Equity in our Homeless Services System Summit raised many of these issues for us to consider in our work and many of us got to work thinking about how we can take action in our local communities to work to end the disparity.

NJCounts 2019 found that on the night of January 22, 2019, a total of 8,864 men, women and children in 6,748 households were identified as experiencing homelessness in the state of New Jersey. It revealed the racial disparity in the population experiencing homelessness in New Jersey. Persons identifying as African American were overrepresented in the homeless numbers counted on the night of NJCounts 2019. NJCounts 2020 which will take place on Janaury 29 will once again track the racial disparity in New Jersey’s homeless population.

Disparities along racial lines in the population experiencing homelessness are seen in a number of areas. NJCounts 2019 found persons identifying as Black or African American made up the majority of sheltered persons, 3,678 persons (51.5%), and unsheltered persons, 698 persons (49.4%), identified in the Point-in-Time count.

In New Jersey, according to NJCounts 2019, persons identifying as Black or African American are overrepresented in the population experiencing homelessness and living below the poverty level. While 13% of the general population, persons identifying as Black or African American are 24% of the population in poverty and 49.4% of the population experiencing homelessness.

We need new policies, processes and practices here in New Jersey to change the homeless service system and work to eliminate inequity. Race is a social factor that influences life experiences. Racism is an overarching system of power that indirectly and directly impacts life.

But in addition to the work that needs to be done in New Jersey, we can also be monitoring efforts at the national level that would work against any work being done here in New Jersey.

On January 14, the Trump administration published a proposed rule that would reverse efforts to undo historic and ongoing patterns of housing discrimination and segregation throughout the U.S. The proposed rule is now open for a 60-day public comment period.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has used an advance copy of the proposed rule provided by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to prepare this short overview and detailed summary and analysis.

The proposed rule and the effect that it could have on access to affordable housing in New Jersey could exacerbate the racial disparity in New Jersey’s homeless population. What is being done on the national level to fight back against the proposed changes? NLIHC, the National Housing Law Project, and other partners lead the effort to oppose the proposed rule through the Fight For Housing Justice campaign.

There is a lot of work to do here in New Jersey to address the racial disparity in New Jersey’s homeless population. But, if you are concerned about the racial disparity within New Jersey’s homeless population, how can you support national advocacy efforts to prevent future racial housing segregation? All advocates in New Jersey and across the country can join the Campaign in submitting public comments opposing the rule before the March 16 deadline.

You can click here to read more from NLIHC about the administration’s proposal that would gut the landmark 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule that provided critical guidance and tools to state and local governments and public housing agencies. The 2015 rule was a critical policy change in the national work to end segregation, discrimination and disinvestment in affordable housing.

Organizations and individuals should submit comments opposing the proposed rule by the March 16 deadline. Visit www.FightForHousingJustice.org to submit a comment and find news, talking points, summaries and analyses, and other resources.

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