Trump Rolls Back Fair Housing Rule in Bid to Win Suburban Votes

President Trump said “suburban housewives of America” should be concerned about Joe Biden expanding fair housing rules if he wins the presidency in November.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speaks during a roundtable with President Donald Trump last month. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The Trump administration has revoked an Obama-era housing rule created to fight racial disparities in suburban areas, drawing criticism that the rollback will promote segregation.

Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – a group founded in 1963 at the urging of President John F. Kennedy to combat discrimination against African Americans and other minority groups – said the White House’s action is “intended to drag America back into the Jim Crow era of racial segregation.”

“Decades of experience show us that strong HUD requirements, guidance and oversight are absolutely essential to rooting out the structural racism in housing,” Clarke said in a statement Thursday. “Without critical civil rights protections like the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule, a devastating race to the bottom that will harm Black communities is the inevitable result.”

The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule builds on the Fair Housing Act — part of 1960s civil rights legislation prohibiting landlords from denying the rental of a property based on race, sex and religion. The 2015 rule required cities and counties that receive federal housing funds to assess longstanding fair-housing problems, then propose a plan to fix them.

Announcing the rollback Thursday, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement the rule was “complicated, costly and ineffective.”

“Instead, the Trump administration has established programs like Opportunity Zones that are driving billions of dollars of capital into underserved communities where affordable housing exists, but opportunity does not,” Carson said.

He added, “Washington has no business dictating what is best to meet your local community’s unique needs.”

The Trump administration never enforced the 2015 rule. HUD officials suspended reporting and planning requirements for local governments in January 2018. In May of that year, the agency eliminated a computerized tool used by localities for creating those plans, saying the system was confusing, difficult to use, and “frequently produced unacceptable assessments.”

President Donald Trump hinted at his intended audience in a tweet, saying “Suburban Housewives of America” should be concerned about presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden expanding the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule if he wins the presidency in November.

“Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better!” Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon.

HUD’s proposal for a replacement of the Obama-era rule focuses on choice, according to officials. The new regulation has been dubbed the Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice rule and lowers the bar for HUD grants, allowing them for anyone who pledges a good-faith effort to promote fair housing.

A fair housing option “exists when a jurisdiction can foster the broad availability of affordable housing” that is safe, sanitary and without discrimination, the new rule states. The proposal says it is a simplification of the previous process, noting previous housing regulations “stretched as long as 832 pages” and risked “violating the organizational management maxim.”

The new rule “would also alleviate the unintended consequences of discouraging the use of federal assistance in communities that need additional help instead of restrictions,” the proposal states. “It would provide a more tailored approach that would take into account local issues and concerns by allowing local jurisdictions to create custom approaches based on their unique circumstances.”

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