Fair Market Rents
Fair Market Rents (FMRs) are calculated by HUD and represent median rents for a particular area. When FMRs for a particular area are set at too low a level (which is often the case because FMRs are set based on rents in an entire region), families face tremendous barriers to finding housing in areas of high opportunity, and often end up living in disinvested, impoverished neighborhoods. Despite a public housing authority’s federally-mandated duty to affirmatively further fair housing by fostering mobility to higher opportunity areas, many public housing authorities have turned their backs on this issue and their low FMRs feed the ongoing cycle of racial segregation and geographic poverty divides.
Small Area FMRS
In 2016, HUD finalized a rule that would change the way FMRs are calculated in some areas, making it easier for families to move to neighborhoods with access to jobs, high-performing schools, and reliable transportation. Among other improvements, SAFMRs calculate rent based on smaller geographic areas to more accurately capture market rents.
When HUD published its proposed SAFMR rule, NHLP performed an extensive analysis and found that the proposed rule would help new voucher tenants move to areas of opportunity but would negatively impact thousands of current voucher families. NHLP submitted comments to HUD highlighting these adverse consequences but generally supporting the rule.
On Friday, August 11, 2017, HUD suspended the mandatory implementation of SAFMRs. HUD sent letters to 23 out of the 24 public housing agencies (PHAs) originally required to use SAFMRs and informed the PHAs that use of SAFMRs is discretionary. HUD’s actions are troubling for a variety of reasons including that the policy is meant to help deconcentrate voucher families in high poverty areas in some of the most racially segregated cities in the country. Additionally, HUD suspended the policy without going through a proper notice-and-comment period, despite a rigorous public process prior to implementation of the original rule.