A coalition of affordable housing and civil rights leaders are condemning the Trump administration's plans to eliminate a tool aimed at addressing systemic racism and segregation in the nation’s communities.
The move comes after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it is terminating the Obama administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation issued in 2015.
“In its haste to undermine this central component of the Fair Housing Act, the administration has done an end run around the normal rulemaking process and adopted a new AFFH rule by executive fiat,” said the coalition of leaders in a statement. “This new rule is at complete odds with Congress’ intent in including this provision in the Fair Housing Act of 1968, as well as decades of case law interpreting this provision. That act requires federal agencies, especially HUD, to ‘affirmatively further fair housing.’”
The groups also note that the move comes at a time when much of the nation is seeking sweeping reforms to overcome structured racism and when millions of families of color are experiencing disproportionate income and job loss during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coalition is calling for the AFFH regulations to be reinstated.
Under the AFFH mandate, localities receiving federal assistance must take 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. They must also address local policies that illegally discriminate against residents. Further, they must ensure that all neighborhoods have equitable access to high-quality schools, healthy food, clean air and water, reliable transportation, quality health care facilities, and other community resources and amenities.
Under the Trump administration, HUD suspended the AFFH regulations finalized in 2015, effectively gutting 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, said the organizations.
“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 [Ben] 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.”
Other housing leaders also denounced the move to end AFFH.
"The president's attacks on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule are deeply racist. The AFFH rule was functionally eliminated in 2017 so the administration's focus on it now is clearly a political stunt to stoke racial animus before the election. To say that a rule that requires cities to analyze segregation would 'destroy the suburbs' is as close as you can get to an endorsement of racial segregation without actually saying the words," said Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project. “Our nation is simultaneously facing a global pandemic and a nationwide reckoning on entrenched institutional racism. Both have laid bare our country’s enduring legacy of the disenfranchisement of and disregard for Black and Brown lives. Instead of working to ensure that all our nation’s families can stay safe and avoid eviction during the public health crisis, this administration is working to dismantle decades of civil rights law."