Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is pushing ahead with plans to roll back an Obama-era rule aimed at combating housing segregation.
Carson announced Monday that HUD had formally begun the process of revamping the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, a July 2015 regulation that had required communities and local governments receiving federal funding to identify and address any barriers to fair housing like racial segregation.
The rule had been seen as a belated effort by HUD to strengthen the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act, which prohibits race discrimination in the sale and rental of housing, according to The Washington Post.
But Carson, who has denounced government efforts to desegregate housing in America as “failed socialist experiments,” said in a statement that while his department “believes very deeply in the purposes of the Fair Housing Act,” he criticized the current rule for dictating “often … unworkable requirements and actually imped[ing] the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing.”
“It’s ironic that the current AFFH rule, which was designed to expand affordable housing choices, is actually suffocating investment in some of our most distressed neighborhoods that need our investment the most,” Carson said.
Sara Pratt, a civil rights attorney and former Obama official who oversaw HUD’s enforcement of the rule, lambasted the Trump administration’s move this week.
“You’re going back to communities willfully blinding themselves to patterns of segregation,” Pratt told NBC News. “Without this rule, communities will not do the work to eliminate discrimination and segregation.”
Pratt’s law firm is representing a coalition of civil rights groups that is suing HUD for its earlier efforts to “delay and dilute” the fair housing rule. HUD announced in January that it was suspending the obligation of most local governments to comply with the rule until 2020 or, in many cases, 2025.
Carson said his department intends to “craft a new, fairer rule that creates choices for quality housing across all communities.”
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, he explained how the Trump administration plans to “pivot away from efforts to integrate lower-income housing into wealthier neighborhoods,” which the Obama administration had encouraged, and instead push for an increase in housing supply overall.
“I want to encourage the development of mixed-income multifamily dwellings all over the place,” Carson told the paper.
HUD said it is accepting public comment for the next 60 days as it mulls the rule change.
According to NPR, HUD officials said they will also be holding informal listening forums with city planners, public housing authorities and other stakeholders.