Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing in California

HCD’s mission is to promote safe, affordable homes and vibrant, inclusive, sustainable communities for all Californians. When housing choice and access are limited because of someone’s race, sexual orientation, or disability status, there are far-reaching impacts on access to job opportunity, access to quality education, and on one’s mental and physical health.

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) seeks to combat housing discrimination, eliminate racial bias, undo historic patterns of segregation, and lift barriers that restrict access in order to foster inclusive communities and achieve racial equity, fair housing choice, and opportunity for all Californians.


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Government policies, exclusionary tactics, and disparate treatment have long been key components of the housing system which encouraged spatial inequality based on race. For decades, systematic redlining, restrictive covenants in private land sales, and residential segregation restricted many groups, particularly communities of color, from accessing opportunity and meaningful fair housing choice.

To address this, Congress established the Fair Housing Act in 1968 to prohibit discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, and national origin. Over time the law expanded its protections to include discrimination based on sex, disability, and familial status. The law also introduced the need to go beyond just prohibiting discrimination to instead creating real housing choice by affirmatively furthering fair housing.

However, while federal mandates prohibited overt forms of housing discrimination, residential segregation has remained through the use of more subtle, discriminatory methods that reinforce patterns of segregation that persist in California today. AB 686 introduces strong state policy to ameliorate this issue. More background and history can be found in the introductory section of the AFFH Guidance Memo.

Assembly Bill 686

In 2018, the California State Legislature passed AB 686 to expand upon the fair housing requirements and protections outlined in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The law:

The passage of AB 686 protects the requirement to affirmatively further fair housing within California state law, regardless of future federal actions. It also preserves the strong policy in the U.S. Department of Housing and Community Development’s (HUD) Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule as published in the Federal Register in 2015.

As of January 1, 2019, AB 686 proactively applies the obligation to affirmatively further fair housing to all public agencies in California. Public agencies must now examine existing and future policies, plans, programs, rules, practices, and related activities and make proactive changes to promote more inclusive communities. More information on AB 686’s new obligations can be found in Part 1 of the AFFH Guidance Memo.

Changes to Housing Element Law Under AB 686

AB 686 creates new requirements for all housing elements due to be revised on or after January 1, 2021. These requirements ensure that the obligation to affirmatively further fair housing is a part of a jurisdiction’s planning process and guiding documents for community development.

New requirements and changes to Housing Element Law can be found in Part 2 of the AFFH Guidance Memo.

AFFH Data Viewer

HCD created an interactive statewide AFFH Data Viewer to assist in the assessment of fair housing. HCD solicited feedback from advocates, councils of government, partner public agencies, and academic research groups to ensure the first iteration of the tool consolidates relevant data and provides options for addressing each component within the Assessment of Fair Housing (within the Housing Element). It consists of mapped data layers in six categories:

  1. Fair Housing Enforcement and Outreach Capacity
  2. Segregation and Integration
  3. Disparities in Access to Opportunity
  4. Disproportionate Housing Needs/Displacement Risk
  5. Racially Concentrated Areas of Poverty and Affluence
  6. Supplemental Data

The interactive maps can be explored in any internet browser and exported as a PDF, jpeg, and other image files. In addition, the underlying data layers can be downloaded for offline data analysis. HCD plans to continuously update these map layers and add additional data, as well as incorporate user feedback. Comments can be submitted to

Picture of the interactive maps.

AFFH Guidance Memo

To help jurisdictions meet their AB 686 obligations, HCD released the first sections of the AFFH Guidance Memo that include:

  1. The duty of all public agencies to affirmatively further fair housing.
  2. New housing element requirements.
  3. Additional resources for communities.

As jurisdictions, advocates, researchers, and other partners continue to work on AFFH in their communities, HCD looks forward to soliciting additional feedback and refining this guidance. The guidance memo should be considered a living document.

HCD plans to release these sample analyses in summer 2021 to include in our AFFH guidance materials.