According to a Buzzfeed News article published Tuesday, 45 House and Senate Democrats have requested the Department of Housing and Urban Development Inspector General Oliver Davis investigate new HUD discrimination allegations.
According to the eight-page letter sent on June 8, Congressional Democrats asked Inspector Davis to explore allegations that HUD “imposed a new nonpublic and legally erroneous policy prohibiting the issuance of [Federal Housing Administration]-insured loans to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients and knowingly misrepresented to Congress the implementation and enforcement of this policy.”
In 2017, President Trump announced the decision to end the DACA program, an Obama-era program aimed at helping undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Alongside enabling these immigrants to legally attend college, work and live in the United States, DACA recipients are also eligible to receive FHA-insured mortgages.
Buzzfeed News said HUD Secretary Ben Carson and other housing officials have repeatedly told legislators and media outlets that no policy changes have been made, despite first-hand evidence obtained by Buzzfeed from lenders and DACA recipients that says otherwise.
“No one was aware of any changes that had been made to the policy whatsoever,” Carson said during a House committee testimony in April 2019. “I’m sure we have plenty of DACA recipients who have FHA-backed loans.”
Despite Carson’s denial, Senator Bob Menendez told Buzzfeed News he believes he and his colleague’s claims against HUD are “clear.”
“The facts are clear: HUD officials implemented a secret policy change to discriminate against DACA recipients,” Senator Menendez said in a written statement sent to Buzzfeed News. “HUD failed to disclose this change publicly and misrepresented that a change in policy had occurred in Congressional hearings, letter responses, and briefings to Congressional staff.”
“It’s unacceptable for the Trump Administration to secretly change the rules to stop DACA recipients from achieving the dream of homeownership,” added Senator Pete Aguilar in a separate statement. “It’s equally unacceptable that the HUD Secretary would lie to Congress about the Trump Administration’s discriminatory housing practices.”
The Department’s current defense seems to rest upon HUD Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations Len Wolfson’s interpretation of what DACA offers in terms of legal citizenship and how that impacts home loan availability.
“HUD has been very clear that it has not implemented any policy changes during the current Administration, either formal or informal, with respect to FHA eligibility requirements for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients,” Wolfson said in a July 2019 statement, according to previous reports by Buzzfeed News and Inman. “HUD has longstanding policy regarding eligibility for non-U.S. citizens without lawful residency.”
“Those policies have not been altered,” Wolfson concluded.
However, House and Senate Democrats aren’t buying the explanation.
“HUD chose to exclude lawful homebuyers from accessing FHA-backed home loans,” Representative Juan Vargas told Buzzfeed News. “DREAMers earned the right to buy a home as taxpaying participants in our country’s labor force.”
HUD did not immediately respond to Inman’s request for comment Tuesday, but we will update the story as soon as it’s available.
Read the full letter below: