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Groups blast Trump Fair Housing ploy

A critical tool of desegregation

OW Staff Writer | 7/30/2020, midnight

A coalition of civil rights, affordable housing and consumer advocacy organizations have condemned the move by the Trump administration to eliminate a critical tool for addressing systemic racism and segregation in our communities.

In its haste to undermine this central component of the Fair Housing Act, the administration has reportedly done an end run around the normal rulemaking process and adopted a new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule by executive fiat. 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.”

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 healthcare 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.

The coalition calls on him to rescind this mandate and reinstate the 2015 AFFH regulation.

The advocacy groups say there is considerable evidence that all residents benefit from diverse, inclusive communities. Research by Harvard University Economist Raj Chetty showed 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.

“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.

“We call on every American to oppose the unjustifiable and shortsighted rollback of civil rights laws like the AFFH mandate,” said Heather Abraham, supervising attorney of the Georgetown University Law Center Civil Rights Clinic. “Today, more Americans are waking up to the reality that our government has repeatedly used its power and resources to segregate communities by race, and that history must be confronted and reversed. The last thing we should do is create another barrier to reform. No more rollbacks, no more games.”