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Civil Rights Groups Strongly Oppose HUD’s New “Fair Housing” Rule and Call on the Agency to Reinstate the 2015 AFFH Regulation

The new Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice rule incorrectly redefines the meaning of fair housing and eliminates important tools for addressing systemic discrimination in housing, weakening the Fair Housing Act.

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s new Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice rule goes into effect, marking a major step backwards in the ongoing fight for fair housing. The new rule, which replaces the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation, guts the fundamental provisions of the Fair Housing Act’s AFFH mandate, such as eliminating discriminatory housing practices, taking active steps to end segregation, promoting integration, and ensuring that all neighborhoods are well-resourced and that their residents have access to opportunity. This new rule is even weaker than the rule HUD initially proposed back in January of this year, which garnered nearly 20,000 public comments from individuals and organizations, overwhelmingly in opposition.

Simply put, the Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice rule is a sham; it lacks substance, clarity, and accuracy in its definition of fair housing. To make matters worse, this rule is going into effect amid a global health pandemic and economic downturn that’s disproportionately impacting under-resourced communities of color. It also ignores the growing public outcry for the country to dismantle structural racism and make true progress and equal opportunity a reality for all Americans.

“Since his first day in the position as HUD Secretary, Ben Carson has worked to dismantle fair housing,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Instead of using time and resources to carry out HUD’s mission—to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all—this administration has worked to tear down efforts to rectify decades of racist housing policies that created today’s segregated neighborhoods and all its associated harm to children, families, and the country. It is abhorrent for the administration to use a critical fair housing tool for election year fear-mongering and race-baiting, particularly during a time of reckoning for racial injustices.”

“In a cynical ploy to win over suburban white voters ahead of the election, President Trump has been using social media to spread lies about the 2015 AFFH rule and paint his new rule as a tool to supposedly save the suburbs. But by gutting AFFH, Trump will actually weaken the suburbs,” said Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “Studies have shown that all residents, regardless of race or national origin, benefit from diverse, inclusive communities, a stated goal of the Fair Housing Act. Moreover, everyone wins when discriminatory housing practices are abolished. For the sake of our country, the current administration should immediately rescind its new rule and reinstate the 2015 AFFH regulation.”

“This administration continues its anti-civil rights agenda by rescinding the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule,” said Shamus Rollerexecutive director of the National Housing Law Project. “HUD is abdicating its responsibility to ensure federal funds not be used to perpetuate segregation, and is doing so with a regulation that was crafted in secret. The rhetoric surrounding this rule is a political ploy to promote racial division at a time when our nation is calling out for racial and economic justice.”

“With this cynical rule change, the Trump government now has one more thing to celebrate with racists who want to make America divided again,” said Jesse Van Tol, CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. “This new rule will make no positive impact on addressing persistent patterns of racial segregation that continue to create unfair and unjust life outcomes for people based on their zip codes. In place of a clear and specific federal mandate to further fair housing, the Trump team came up with empty words and a meaningless responsibility handed off to local governments. This new approach affirmatively furthers a racist, do-nothing agenda. Local governments can do nothing but talk, take no action and claim they furthered fair housing. This approach won’t affirmatively further anything other than discrimination.” “Fair housing is a human right, not a partisan issue. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 has yet to be fully implemented, which has perpetuated a separate and unequal society. The 2015 AFFH rule was a step toward fulfilling that law’s mandate of breaking down segregation and the inequity it created. In quashing the rule, the Trump administration has taken our nation backwards, denying people the freedom to choose where they live and exacerbating the issues that we struggle with as our nation reckons with racial injustice today,” said Nikitra Bailey, executive vice president at the Center for Responsible Lending. “The administration should reverse this action and take the necessary steps to ensure that all people, including Black Americans, can fairly participate in the American Dream.”

“The good faith efforts and work of activists and housing practitioners in seeking to fully realize the promise of the Fair Housing Act, through such regulations as the embattled 2015 AFFH rule, have been consistently ignored and disrespected by this administration,” said Megan Haberle, deputy director of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council. “This new regulation is completely contrary to the spirit and intent of the Fair Housing Act as well as to principles of democratic governance. Where the federal government is legally obligated to curb racial discrimination in housing and make opportunity more accessible to historically oppressed communities, this regulation tells jurisdictions that the status quo created by decades of racist government action and maintained by present-day policies is acceptable and preferred. Our government should heed its statutory obligation to further fair housing by rescinding this regulation and reinstating the 2015 AFFH rule.”

“The termination of the AFFH rule once again demonstrates that the administration has no regard for civil rights laws like the Fair Housing Act,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The president and his appointees continue to dismantle long-standing anti-discrimination protections designed to safeguard the housing choices of Black households and communities of color, in particular.”

“At a time when communities of color are disproportionately bearing the brunt of the economic damage and illness caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, HUD has made the unconscionable decision to undermine fair housing and perpetuate existing patterns of discrimination and inequality,” said Linda Jun, senior policy counsel at Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund. “While much of the country is calling for reforms to address systemic racism, HUD has deliberately chosen to move forward with a rule that goes against the core goal of the statutory mandate to affirmatively further fair housing, and will exacerbate inequities and segregation instead.” 

“The Fair Housing Act of 1968 has not been fully implemented. There are many people of color who are disabled and still encounter racism in their search for housing. We as a country are watching how racism and racist policies harm communities of Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC),” said Dara Baldwin, director of national policy at the Center for Disability Rights, Inc. “The Trump administration continues to participate in uplifting racist policies like this change on the AFFH rule. State and local governments will not be able to protect the rights of BIPOC people, and harmful and racist barriers will continue to keep out all people seeking safe, affordable, and accessible housing. We work for the rights of people with disabilities to be protected, and housing is one of the most important human rights for living a safe and inclusive life for them. We call on this administration to reverse this rule change today.”

“The duty to affirmatively further fair housing is a longstanding mandate set forth in the Fair Housing Act (FHA) of 1968, which was enacted to combat structural inequalities resulting from years of discrimination and segregative housing practices. Housing segregation and unequal access to opportunity continue to be systemic problems in communities across the country. The 2015 AFFH rule provided local communities with the data and resources needed to make effective decisions about how to distribute resources and implement strategies to address housing discrimination, segregation, and access to opportunity,” said Lisa Cylar Barrett, director of policy, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. “With this new rule, the Trump administration has abdicated its responsibility to address and eliminate systemic discrimination. The decision to roll back the 2015 AFFH rule is another in a long line of clear civil rights regressions by this administration. At a time when Americans in communities across the nation continue to demand racial justice, this decision, and the many others that have come alongside it, is completely out of touch with what the country is demanding of its leadership.”