Trump and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, led by Ben Carson, last week officially scrapped a rule meant to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Enshrined in 2015, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing policy held communities accountable for providing fair housing by requiring any town that wanted to receive HUD funding to document and publicly report patterns of racial bias.
The president’s plan to eliminate the Obama-era Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulations was crafted by “a handful of White House officials,” over objections from “both within the White House and at the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” according to a Politico reportpublished July 23.
On June 30, President Trump said the rule had a “devastating impact on these once-thriving suburban areas” and was “not fair to homeowners.”
Vince Malta, president of the National Association of REALTORS®, called the move “disappointing,” and it effectively eliminates any requirement that HUD-funded communities meaningfully address segregation, as required by the 1968 federal Fair Housing Act.
The AFFH aimed to push local governments to track poverty and segregation in their communities, tying access to federal funding for housing to their completion of a 92-point questionnaire. A HUD proposal released back in January initially aimed to augment AFFH, but feedback on these changes ultimately pushed Ben Carson’s HUD to scrap it altogether.
Effort to ‘Cut Through Red Tape’
From the HUD chief’s perspective, doing away with AFFH—which HUD hasn’t enforced since 2018—is an effort to help local communities cut through red tape.
“After reviewing thousands of comments on the proposed changes to the [AFFH] regulation, we found it to be unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with, too often resulting in funds being steered away from communities that need them most,” Carson told Politico.
The new, final rule (which is not subject to public input) essentially lets municipalities declare that they’re in compliance with the tenets of the 1968 Fair Housing Act without any major documentation or accountability.
Housing experts are torn on the future of the AFFH rule, with some calling for the Obama-era version to stay in place and others favoring HUD’s new, “more flexible” system.
“Because of residential segregation, our schools are segregated,” the National Fair Housing Alliance said in a Twitter thread on July 1. “AFFH is designed to ameliorate the devastation caused by residential segregation.”
On the other hand, American Enterprise Institute Director Edward Pinto told NPR he thought a revision was needed, although he didn’t explicitly express support for HUD’s plan.
“It’s very much required a lot of hiring of experts, planners and land-use people and attorneys to create these very complex plans,” Pinto said. “The situations in each of those places could be very different. And the first question you have to ask is, how well does that community meet the supply need for housing?”
NAR’s President Malta said that the move “significantly weakens the federal government’s commitment to the goals of the Fair Housing Act.”
“The viability of our 1.4 million members depends on the free, transparent and efficient transfer of property in this country, and NAR maintains that a strong, affirmative fair housing rule is vital to advancing our nation’s progress toward thriving and inclusive communities,” Malta added.
“With the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color reminding us of the costs of the failure to address barriers to housing opportunity, NAR remains committed to ensuring no American is unfairly denied this fundamental right in the future.”