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HUD takes aim at yet another Obama-era anti-segregation rule

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The rule requires cities to address policies that might unintentionally lead to segregation

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Fresh off a failed attempt to delay a rule designed to give Section 8 housing voucher recipients more choice in where to live, Ben Carson and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Friday that it’s delaying another Obama-era anti-segregation measure: the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule.

The AFFH rule, established in 2015, aims to realize aspects of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) of 1968 that never came to be. The FHA barred racial discrimination in housing, but not until a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling did the ban include “disparate impact”: policies that are discriminatory without necessarily stating racial discrimination as an intent.

Under the AFFH rule, communities are required to review their housing policies as they relate to segregation, and submit a plan, called an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH), combat it. Failure to submit an AFH could result in a community losing block grants and housing aid from the federal government.

In a notice published to the Federal Register, HUD didn’t directly repeal the rule, but said it was delaying the deadline for AFH submissions until 2020.

“Based on the initial AFH reviews, HUD believes that program participants need additional time and technical assistance to adjust to the new AFFH process and complete AFH submissions that can be accepted by HUD” the notice reads.

So far, HUD has received 49 submissions out of the 1,200 participating jurisdictions. In 2017, it found that 35 percent of the submissions were not accepted and sent back to the community for retooling.

While a delay in AFH submissions may seem like a minor move, HUD, under Carson, tried this tactic with the Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) rule just last year. A district court ruled against HUD, stating there was little basis for a delay.

Furthermore, Carson penned an op-ed in 2015 after the rule was implemented, calling it an experiment in “failed socialism.” In it, he compares it to the “failure of school busing” after Brown v. Board of Education mandated that public school desegregate. He says busing contributed to “white flight” out of cities and into the suburbs.

The op-ed, in addition to repeating numerous statements Carson has made throughout his career, suggests that a delay in anti-segregation measures is ultimately an attempt to undermine them. It’s also part of a pattern of attempts within the Trump administration to repeal anything Obama did while in office, from the Affordable Care Act to Michelle Obama’s childhood nutrition program.

Affordable housing advocates believe cities have been operating in good faith to comply with the rule, and that the delay throws the process into confusion. Gustavo Velasquez, who worked for HUD in the Obama administration, echoed to the New York Times his fear that the delay is just the beginning.

“It’s terrible news,” he said. “I am concerned, though, that this is not actually the worst news.”