President Trump is following through with his plan to eliminate Obama-era Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing regulations. According to a Politico report published on Wednesday, White House staff have briefed “select congressional staff” on the plan and next steps.
“A handful of White House officials led the effort to craft a new rule over objections from both within the White House and at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to a person familiar with the matter,” the report read.
In a late-night tweeting spree on June 30, President Trump threatened to end the AFFH rule, saying it had a “devastating impact on these once-thriving suburban areas” and was “not fair to homeowners.”
“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 tweeted. “Corrupt Joe Biden wants to make them MUCH WORSE. Not fair to homeowners, I may END!”
According to a previous Inman article, the AFFH rule simply provided a framework for local governments, states, and public housing agencies to follow through on pre-existing AFFH legislation included in the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
The current 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.”
In January, HUD released a new 84-page plan that stripped the assessment tool and reporting requirements, with the aim of giving local officials greater “flexibility” in evaluating housing discrimination and creating a plan of action.
“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,” said Secretary Carson in January. “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.”
“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,” Carson added.
However, it seems that HUD and the Trump Administration are now working on a new plan that’s different than what HUD proposed in January. In any case, Politico said the next step would include passing the new rule.
“The public will not have a chance to weigh in on the new rule, which will be considered ‘final,'” the report read. “HUD and the Office of Management and Budget decided to use a waiver under a provision of the Administrative Procedure Act that exempts rules related to grants from notice-and-comment requirements.”
Housing experts are torn on the future of the AFFH rule, with some calling for the Obama-era version to stay in place and others favoring HUD’s new, “more flexible” system.
“Because of residential segregation, our schools are segregated,” the National Fair Housing Alliance said in a Twitter thread on July 1. “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!”
On the other hand, American Enterprise Institute Director Edward Pinto told NPR he thought a revision was needed, although he didn’t explicitly express support for HUD’s January plan.
“It’s very much required a lot of hiring of experts, planners and land-use people and attorneys to create these very complex plans,” Pinto said. “The situations in each of those places could be very different. And the first question you have to ask is, how well does that community meet the supply need for housing in that community?”
The National Association of Realtors chimed in on the decision, with President Vince Malta saying the move “significantly weakens the federal government’s commitment to the goals of the Fair Housing Act.”
“The viability of our 1.4 million members depends on the free, transparent and efficient transfer of property in this country, and NAR maintains that a strong, affirmative fair housing rule is vital to advancing our nation’s progress toward thriving and inclusive communities,” Malta added. “With the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color reminding us of the costs of the failure to address barriers to housing opportunity, NAR remains committed to ensuring no American is unfairly denied this fundamental right in the future.”