Fair housing availability is an equality issue for entitlement communities across the country who receive Federal housing and community development funding to benefit their low- and moderate-income residents. The Fair Housing Act has been in place since 1968 to address housing discrimination and segregation but its impact has been limited. In December 2015, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enacted the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule to strengthen the Act with measurable outcomes. All Entitlement States, Counties and Cities are now required to complete an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) that analyzes their availability of fair housing and sets fair housing priorities and goals that are tracked by HUD. Manatee County recently completed their AFH Plan as the first in the State of Florida.

Manatee County developed their AFH Plan in collaboration with the Manatee County Housing Authority with Wade Trim’s assistance. During the 6-month process to identify barriers to fair housing, HUD’s AFFH Data and Mapping Tool was used to identify patterns of segregation and integration, racially- or ethnically-concentrated areas of poverty, disparities in access to opportunity, and disproportionate housing needs. Local data and knowledge was also incorporated into the tool. Community participation was encouraged through online surveys and meetings with housing stakeholders that resulted in the involvement of 20 agencies and more than 250 individuals.

“The extensive public outreach we used to craft area-specific strategies for our Assessment of Fair Housing Plan will help us address fair housing issues throughout Manatee County,” says Geraldine Campos Lopez, Director of Manatee County’s Redevelopment and Economic Opportunity Department.

Survey results revealed that the County is lacking affordable housing, local enforcement of fair housing laws, and code enforcement on substandard rental units. In addition, blighted structures exist in some areas. Eight goals were established to address the specific fair housing issues and contributing factors identified through community participation and analysis. Progress towards achieving these goals will be reported to HUD over the next five years through the implementation of the County’s Five-Year Consolidated Plan. According to the AFFH Rule, goals identified in the AFH must inform the strategies and actions of the Five-Year Consolidated Plan.

Wade Trim has provided planning services to Manatee County for the past 10 years including assistance with three previous Five-Year Consolidated Plans, Annual Action Plans, and Citizen Participation Plan updates. In addition, on-going community development services have included project management assistance and administrative support, GIS services, public surveys, stakeholder meetings, and public involvement.