The Biden administration is finally ready to show its teeth on housing discrimination

For 55 years, the Fair Housing Act, a landmark civil rights law designed to address housing discrimination, has required communities to certify that they are working to reduce government-sponsored segregation. But for decades, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) did little to ensure cities actually survived.

The new regulation aims to give this chapter some teeth. Biden administration housing division Suggest a new rule Last week, it would require virtually all communities across the United States to make plans to address local housing discrimination or face punishment, including the potential loss of billions of dollars in federal funding. Basically, any city or county that accepts HUD grant money—large and small, rural, urban, and suburban—must comply.

Under the 284-page rule, known as the Fair Housing Positive Reinforcement Rule, communities will need to craft their plans with input from local stakeholders, and submit them to HUD for approval. If approved, communities will then need to provide annual updates on their progress, and individuals can file federal complaints if they feel their leaders are slowing them down.

This newfound toughness of HUD—backed by credible enforcement mechanisms and threats to pull required funding—could finally put an end to the federal government’s turning a blind eye to housing segregation. But an earlier attempt by the Obama administration to do the same was thwarted when Donald Trump was elected. It is not yet clear if the second attempt will meet the same fate.

“We’re done with communities that don’t serve people,” Housing Minister Marcia Fudge told reporters. “We will hold those we give resources accountable. We as a federal government can no longer continue to let down the people whose help we need.”

The Biden administration is seeking General comment on his ruling for the next 60 days, with the intention of the final version becoming effective later this year.

A coalition of thirty housing and civil rights groups–including the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, the ACLU, UnidosUS, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law– praised the release from the base, calling it “an important step toward creating fairer and more affordable housing opportunities and stronger, more livable neighborhoods.”

Huh, wait, haven’t we heard this song before? (yes.)

Positive promotion of fair housing is commonplace, but what it really means is that banning housing discrimination is not enough. Equally important, according to the late U.S. Senator from Minnesota and co-author of the Fair Housing Act, Walter Mondale, is to replace segregated neighborhoods with “truly integrated and balanced living styles.”

In other words, desegregating the country requires some proactive – or “positive” – ​​action such as providing trips and counseling to those who might want to move from a low-income metropolitan area to an affluent suburban area. It may require increasing the value of housing vouchers so that low-income recipients can spend them in more expensive neighborhoods. It may require cities to direct new subsidized housing development into wealthier (and whiter) areas.

In 2008, the National Fair Housing Commission is over that HUD requires “there is no evidence that anything is actually done as a condition of the funding,” and that municipalities that discriminate or fail to promote inclusion go unpunished. The Government Accountability Office has echoed this conclusion report in 2010which found that communities were failing to comply with federal fair housing mandates and that HUD was failing to enforce those rules.

So in 2015, the Obama administration issued a similar regulation of its ownDefinitely aiming to promote fair housing. It was considered a long overdue victory for civil rights – but it faced a backlash from conservatives and some local governments. Stanley Kurtz from National Review invited him “Easily one of President Obama’s most radical initiatives.” Trump called the desegregated rule an attempt “Cancellation of the suburbs.” Likewise, Ben Carson, who will continue to lead HUD under the Trump administration claimed The AFFH rule was just another “mandatory social engineering scheme”.[e]. ”

The Trump administration has taken several steps to weaken the rule, including issuing its own version, civil rights groups Criticize weak and hollow. Shortly after taking office, Biden Undertaking to cancel Organizing Trump and Recommitting To fully implement the Fair Housing Act.

The Obama-era rule, while only in effect for a short time, had some problems, too.

said Phil Tegeler, executive director of the Action Council on Race and Poverty Research, a civil rights group It was “not strong enough” in some key ways, particularly when it came to providing opportunities For local preachers to resume lackluster progress.

Tigler also felt a lot The communities were refusing to “face their histories of apartheid head-on” and instead proposed in their fair housing plans only measures that would invest more heavily in the extremely poor communities: “It is meant to be a rule of both/and, but When you look at the plans, a lot of them were not balanced, and they did very little in terms of setting goals around housing mobility and desegregation.”

Biden housing officials say they believe their proposed version includes important updates to make it easier for smaller communities to participate, and harder for leaders to evade their duties.

The changes include making it easier to analyze the required data, so that jurisdictions do not need to hire outside consultants to get this done. Also include pledges to Strengthening technical assistance, more mechanisms for enforcement, and increasing public transparency rules. Local governments will also be required Hold multiple community meetings, at different times of the day and in different locations, to incorporate feedback from a broader group of constituents.

“We’re aware of the fact that public participation is often done in a way that only certain votes are visible,” Sasha Samberg Champion, deputy general counsel for fair housing at HUD, told me. “We can’t expect workers to show up until the 3 p.m. meeting.”

Will this review continue?

In the end, though, what doomed the Obama rule weren’t the omissions and practical difficulties — they existed for a very short time before being crushed by the Trump administration. This means that no society has to change its behavior in permanent ways; Desegregation, if we are serious about it, will require sustained commitment over years. If the Republicans take back the White House in 2024 or 2028, will this new rule meet the same fate?

HUD declined to comment when I asked them this. But it’s clear that federal housing officials were at least thinking about the dangers of legal ping-pong when they drew up their new rule, because they designed it without Separate enforcement tool that accompanied the Obama era regime. To thwart the Obama ruling while technically leaving it on the books, Trump officials eliminated the enforcement tool — a seemingly narrow move that allowed the Trump administration to win in court.

In other words, to derail a Biden ruling, opponents will have to at least come up with something else to argue in front of the judge.

Tigler, of the Action Council on Race and Poverty Research, is cautiously optimistic about al-Qaeda’s chances of survival this time around.

“The fact that the previous rule came out in 2015 and became an election issue, combined with the false narrative about getting rid of zoning authority and all that nonsense, I think that was a recipe for eliminating the rule in the new administration,” he told me. The problem was that there wasn’t enough time for this to become a routine part of the federal housing programs. If it came out in 2013, I think it would have been very different; It’s been four years of practice, and it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.”

However, if the rule was only in place for one year and then a Republican took over the White House, it’s hard to tell what they might do. “It depends on how big the political football is,” Tigler said.

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