Many people in Michigan and across the country are watching with interest ongoing developments in fair housing law. In August, the Department of Housing and Urban Development began to make changes to the rules that guide local jurisdiction in compliance with and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. Earlier in the year, the Trump administration had suspended a rule drafted by the Obama administration that was intended to assist local areas in meeting their obligations under the FHA to avoid housing discrimination and provide options for affordable housing.

HUD said that its changes to the rules were meant to reduce the burden of regulations on local jurisdiction as well as providing stronger support for local control. Advocates for the changes argued that they would increase the supply of available housing. The department argued that the earlier rule was overly prescriptive and discouraged localities from creating affordable places to live. The department also withdrew a tool used to assess and file plans for affordable housing in their areas under the earlier rule.

On the other hand, housing advocates argued that the existing rule was beneficial to local communities by helping them to set out clear goals for fair housing, including ending discrimination and making greater housing choice available to lower-income residents. In addition, some civil rights advocates said that the federal government has failed over decades to truly ensure meaningful compliance with fair housing standards and urged greater action on the issue.

Fair housing concerns can be of particular relevance to cooperatives, given the membership-based approach to housing. It is important that housing cooperatives develop a clear plan to comply with the Fair Housing Act. Experienced attorneys can work with cooperative housing associations to develop guidelines and policies that protect against risk and require compliance with the law.