WASHINGTON—The Trump administration recently terminated the 2015 Fair Housing Rule designed to fight housing discrimination. The president described low-income housing as a detriment to the suburbs and charged Democrats with a plot to uproot and destroy suburbia, a cultural eutopia that he equated to the American dream.
“I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood …,” the president tweeted July 29.
Mr. Trump followed that tweet with remarks that further explained his sentiments, “You know the suburbs, people fight all of their lives to get into the suburbs and have a beautiful home,” he said later that day in Midland, Texas.
“There will be no more low-income housing forced into the suburbs. … It’s been going on for years. I’ve seen conflict for years. It’s been hell for suburbia.”
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson explained that the Obama Administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation issued in 2015, proved to be complicated, costly, and ineffective. Mr. Trump terminated the Obama administration rule on July 23.
“After reviewing thousands of comments on the proposed changes to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation, we found it to be unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with, too often resulting in funds being steered away from communities that need them most,” said Sec. Carson.
He touted the Trump administration Opportunity Zones for driving billions of dollars of capital into underserved communities where affordable housing exists, but opportunity does not. However, critics of the Opportunity Zones argue despite the tax incentives the flow of money into these areas has been slow and it is still too early to tell how effective they have been.
This new HUD rule, called Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice, defines fair housing broadly to mean housing that is affordable, safe, decent, free of unlawful discrimination, and accessible under civil rights laws.
It then defines “affirmatively furthering fair housing (AFFH)” to mean any action related to promoting any of the above attributes of fair housing.
The previous regulation made localities receiving federal assistance responsible for taking meaningful actions to undo decades of federal, state, and local discriminatory policies and practices that resulted in creating racially segregated, under-resourced communities that persist to this day.
“Housing justice and racial justice are inextricably linked. The AFFH regulation was an important step to rectify decades of racist housing policies that created today’s segregated neighborhoods and all its associated harm to children, families and the country,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
“Secretary Carson has worked to undermine fair housing since the day he stepped into the HUD building, so this action is not surprising. But it is abhorrent for Trump to use a critical fair housing tool for election year race-baiting, particularly during a time of reckoning for racial injustices,” she added.
Under the new regulations, a grantee’s certification that it has affirmatively furthered fair housing would be deemed sufficient if it proposes to take any action above what is required by statute related to promoting any of the attributes of fair housing.
That seems insufficient to the Center for Responsible Lending. The organization explained that the new regulations effectively gutted the only meaningful guidance since the Fair Housing Act for how states and localities should correct discriminatory housing practices and undo the harms caused by racial segregation, housing discrimination and disinvestment.
“People should not be shut out of the American Dream based on the color of their skin. However, decades of redlining have cemented this injustice, perpetuated a massive racial wealth gap between Black and White families, and sustained the continued distribution of resources and opportunity based on race,” said Nikitra Bailey, executive vice president at the Center for Responsible Lending.
“The government helped create entrenched, pernicious residential segregation and has an obligation to undo it. By rejecting the Fair Housing Act’s mission to dismantle segregation and the inequity it created, this administration is eschewing its responsibility and will be on the wrong side of history.”
Research by Harvard University economist Raj Chetty found that moves by lower-income residents to higher-income neighborhoods not only reduce the intergenerational persistence of poverty but also ultimately generate positive returns for taxpayers.
President Trump disagrees. He tweeted, “Your housing prices will go up based on the market, and crime will go down. I have rescinded the Obama-Biden AFFH Rule. Enjoy!”
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, sees it differently. “At a time when evictions, joblessness, and housing insecurity are exacerbated by the pandemic, gutting the Fair Housing Act will only serve to continue systemic racism and segregation against families of color seeking secure, safe, and fair housing,” said Mr. Gupta.
“This cruel action continues housing inequity today as well as for future generations. All people in America deserve fair housing, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.”
—Nisa Islam Muhammad,