- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Trump administration released a new rule Thursday to repeal an Obama-era regulation on housing desegregation, saying it will protect communities “from excessive federal overreach and preserving local decision-making.”

The action is aimed at revoking the Obama administration’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which the White House said “took away decision-making from local communities.”

Mr. Trump has said the Obama regulation, supported by Democratic rival and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, would “destroy” suburbs across the country by imposing desegregation requirements from Washington.

The president’s new rule, the White House said, “will help promote housing that is affordable, decent, safe, and free from discrimination.”

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said his agency “will ultimately terminate” the AFFH regulation that was issued in 2015 because it’s “complicated, costly, and ineffective.” HUD effectively suspended the regulation in January 2018.

“After reviewing thousands of comments on the proposed changes to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing 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,” Dr. Carson said. “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. Washington has no business dictating what is best to meet your local community’s unique needs.”

The new rule, called Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice, “defines fair housing broadly to mean housing that, among other attributes, is affordable, safe, decent, free of unlawful discrimination, and accessible under civil rights law,” HUD said. It then defines “affirmatively furthering fair housing” to mean any action rationally related to promoting any of the above attributes of fair housing.

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, criticized the action and said it was taken without a required notice and comment period.

“Decades of experience show us that strong HUD requirements, guidance and oversight are absolutely essential to rooting out the structural racism in housing,” she said.

“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. Once again, the Trump administration is undertaking action intended to drag America back into the Jim Crow era of racial segregation.”

Mr. Trump tweeted a New York Post article Thursday that said Mr. Biden “wants to ramp up an Obama-era social engineering scheme” and “force suburban towns with single-family homes and minimum lot sizes to build high-density affordable housing smack in the middle of their leafy neighborhoods — local preferences and local control be damned.”“The Suburban Housewives of America must read this article,” the president said. “Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better!”

The president won suburban districts in 2016 by about four percentage points. But polling since 2018 has shown Mr. Trump’s suburban support eroding against Mr. Biden, especially among White women voters.


• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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