In a tweet on Tuesday, President Trump said he’d research ending the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, claiming it’s unfair to suburban homeowners.

In a late-night tweeting session on Tuesday, President Trump threatened to end the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, saying it negatively impacts homeowners in suburban areas.

“At the request of many great Americans who live in the suburbs, and others, I am studying the AFFH housing regulation that is having a devastating impact on these once-thriving suburban areas,” the president said to his 86.2 million followers. “Corrupt Joe Biden wants to make them MUCH WORSE. Not fair to homeowners, I may END!”

According to a HUD explainer, the AFFH rule requires local governments, states, and public housing agencies to take “meaningful actions” against housing discrimination and segregation, and promote fair housing choice while “fostering inclusive communities.”

The AFFH rule requires all local, state, and public housing officials to use the Affirmatively Fair Housing Assessment Tool, which uses HUD data and questionnaires to help leaders identify “patterns of integration and segregation; racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty; disparities in access to opportunity; and disproportionate housing needs, as well as the contributing factors for those issues.”

When passed in 2015, a number of national civil rights, fair housing, women’s, disability, LGBT and consumer organizations and labor unions expressed their support for the rule, saying it strengthened the affirmatively furthering fair housing requirements included in the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

“While the rule did not incorporate all of the recommendations made by fair housing and civil rights advocates, it lays out a process that is substantially more clear, focused and results-oriented, and with greater accountability, than the old system it replaced,” the National Fair Housing Alliance said of the rule.

“Advocates, grantees, the [Government Accountability Office], and HUD itself had determined that the previous system was not an effective way to ensure that either HUD or its grantees (also called program participants) were using their resources to expand housing choice and ensure that all neighborhoods are places of opportunity, thereby fulfilling their statutory obligations to affirmatively further fair housing.”

Since then, HUD has chipped away at the rule, first by suspending the AFH Assessment tool in 2018 due to “difficulty in use,” and then proposing an amendment to the rule in January 2020.

According to a previous Inman article, HUD said the amendment would create a “new process” that gives local officials greater “flexibility” in evaluating housing discrimination and creating a plan of action. In its 84-page proposal, HUD said the current system “required significant resources,” which resulted in high failure rates.

The new plan, they said, would give HUD the power to suggest best practices without “mandating exactly what steps to take.”

“HUD’s commitment to Fair Housing remains as steadfast as ever before, and this improved rule reaffirms our mission of giving people more affordable housing options in communities across the country,” said Secretary Carson in January. “By fixing the old Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, localities now have the flexibility to devise housing plans that fit their unique needs and provide families with more housing choices within their reach.”

“Mayors know their communities best, so we are empowering them to make housing decisions that meet their unique needs, not a mandate from the federal government,” Carson added. “Having said that, if a community fails to improve housing choice, HUD stands ready to enforce the Fair Housing Act and pursue action against any party that violates the law.”

Fair Housing advocates automatically slammed the proposal, saying it places “no real obligations on public housing authorities.”

“Secretary Carson not only seeks to dismantle HUD’s system for providing oversight of its fair housing grantees, the proposed rule also doubles as a transparently ideological attack on equitable local policies that advance racial and economic justice,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told Inman. “In no uncertain terms, we condemn this latest attempt by Secretary Carson to undermine fair housing efforts in our country.”

Fair Housing advocates have been just as fierce with their opposition to Trump’s Tuesday night tweet, with the National Fair Housing Alliance saying “residential segregation is the bedrock of inequality.”

“Because of residential segregation, our schools are segregated,” the NFHA said in a twitter thread explaining the 52-year history of AFFH. “AFFH is designed to ameliorate the devastation caused by residential segregation.”

“And yet, Trump is attacking this major civil rights provision,” they added after noting the AFFH was passed “as an honorarium” for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “We will not let him tarnish Dr. King’s dream!”

Email Marian McPherson

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