For 55 years, the Fair Housing Act, the landmark civil rights law meant 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 were actually following through.
A new regulation is meant to give that desegregation mandate some teeth. The Biden administration’s housing department proposed a new rule last week that would require virtually all communities across the US to create plans to address local housing discrimination or face a penalty, including the potential loss of billions of dollars in federal funding. Essentially, any city or county that accepts HUD grant money — large and small, rural, urban, and suburban — would have to comply.
Under the 284-page rule, known as the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, communities would need to craft their plans with input from local stakeholders, and submit them to HUD for approval. If approved, communities would then need to provide annual updates on their progress, and individuals could file federal complaints if they feel their leaders are dragging their feet.
This newfound toughness from HUD — backed by enforcement mechanisms and credible threats of yanking needed funding — could finally spell an end to the federal government turning a blind eye toward housing segregation. But a previous attempt by the Obama administration to do the same was stymied when Donald Trump was elected, and it’s not yet clear if this second try will meet the same fate.
“We are done with communities that do not serve people,” Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge told reporters. “We are going to hold responsible those that we give resources to. We no longer as a federal government can continue to fail the very people we need to help.”
The Biden administration is seeking public comment on its rule over the next 60 days, with the intent to have a final version take effect later this year.
Your segregated town might finally be in trouble, Rachel M. Cohen, Vox, January 23, 2023, available here