In January, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that the agency was suspending a rule that required communities to study and rectify policies and processes that stand in the way of racial integration.
Passed in 2015 under the Obama administration, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule aimed to improve the government’s enforcement of the 1968 Fair Housing Act (FHA), which bars housing discrimination. Under it, the 1,200+ local and state government entities that collect $5.5 billion in federal housing funds each year are tasked with creating Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) plans to desegregate the communities they serve and retain their funding. It was developed during a six-year process after the United States Government Accountability Office determined in 2010 that the agency was falling down on the job of enforcing the FHA. The plans were set to start rolling in last year.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson previously equated the rule with what he called “failed socialist experiments” like “mandated busing” policies that were used to integrate American schools. The Trump administration’s move to suspend the rule means that grantees can continue to receive funding without fulfilling the requirements of the rule.
Today (May 8), the National Fair Housing Alliance, Texas Appleseed and Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (Texas Housers) filed a lawsuit against HUD and Carson to force the agency to enforce the rule. The complaint alleges that HUD acted unlawfully when it suspended the requirement, and that the agency’s action effectively removed civil rights oversight from the grants process.
From the complaint:
[HUD] delayed that requirement until the next submission date for each grantee that occurs after October 31, 2020. Consequently, most recipients of federal housing funds will not have to complete or submit an AFH until at least 2024. In the announcement, HUD also stated that it would not review the AFHs that jurisdictions had already submitted and would not require revision and resubmission of rejected AFHs. Put simply, HUD abandoned the AFFH Rule and left local governments once more without regulatory supervision, guidance as to what constitutes compliance with the statutory AFFH requirement, or any required process to follow—a situation that had already proven to result in rampant non-compliance.
By returning to the dysfunctional, pre-AFFH Rule regime that HUD itself concluded did not work, HUD also is violating its statutory duty under the Fair Housing Act to ensure that federal funds are used to affirmatively further fair housing. Decades of experience have shown that, left to their own devices, local jurisdictions will simply pocket federal funds and do little to further fair housing objectives. When suspending the AFFH Rule’s requirements, HUD made no attempt to reconcile its action with its own prior finding in the administrative record that the Rule is necessary or to explain why history will not repeat itself.
The three plaintiffs in the suit are represented by several organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC).
“The communities we work with have looked to the AFFH Rule to realize the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, and to help fulfill their modern-day dreams of equality and racial inclusion. This administration has chosen to obstruct that progress. With the rule suspended, our tax dollars will continue to be used, in effect, to underwrite continuing segregation, lack of housing choice, and unequal opportunity throughout our country. We must restore the AFFH Rule and together move forward again,” PRRAC deputy director Megan Haberle said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.