Trump Proposal Makes It Harder to Desegregate Neighborhoods, Slowing Necessary Progress

By Darrel Thompson

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has proposed a regulation that would effectively eliminate a 2015 policy known as the Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH). The AFH provides guidance to communities and public housing authorities on how to effectively desegregate neighborhoods and reverse associated discriminatory practices. If implemented, the proposed rule would make it harder to foster inclusive communities and promote fair housing choice for people of color, people with disabilities, and other protected classes.

In 1968, Congress recognized that making housing discrimination illegal was not enough on its own to address entrenched residential segregation. So, lawmakers included in the Fair Housing Act (FHA) of 1968 an obligation known as “affirmatively furthering fair housing” (AFFH). This requires all federal agencies, including HUD and its funding recipients such as public housing authorities, to create plans to proactively address patterns of segregation in programs and activities related to housing, home ownership, and community development. Unfortunately, the obligation did not provide specific guidelines on how to take proactive action. That lack of clear guidance prior to 2015 resulted in many communities having outdated plans, plans without benchmarks, or no plans at all. After nearly four years of broad input from the civil rights community, state and local governments, and housing agencies, HUD issued the AFH policy in 2015. A standardized road map, the AFH was used by neighborhoods and public housing authorities to help them demonstrate their compliance with the FHA’s obligation to desegregate neighborhoods and create fair housing choice. 

Recently, the Trump Administration stopped implementing the AFH. It seeks now to create a new obligation to affirmatively further fair housing—one that ignores decades of housing segregation and discrimination, and minimizes oversight of public housing authorities and other entities receiving federal housing funds. Essentially, HUD proposes considering an adequate supply of affordable, quality housing as fair housing choice, even if that housing is concentrated in segregated neighborhoods. However, assessing the supply of such housing does not identify whether protected groups face housing discrimination, nor will it necessarily reduce or eliminate entrenched segregation, discriminatory attitudes, policies, or practices. 

Access to safe, affordable housing is an essential human need. It has an outsized impact on individual, family, and community well-being because it provides not only physical shelter, but can determine access to jobs, education, and health care. At a time when the racial wealth gap grows, Black homeownership declines below levels when discrimination was legal, and people with disabilities struggle to find accessible homes, fulfilling the obligations of the FHA are more important now than ever.

CLASP strongly opposes HUD’s proposed regulation and has submitted comments saying as much. An effort that would undo a legislative commitment to address the long, painful history of housing segregation and discrimination is wrong. It would weaken the critical work communities and public housing authorities were doing and still need to do to address harmful patterns of residential segregation, discriminatory housing practices, housing cost burdens, and community disinvestment. HUD should withdraw its proposed rule, commit to strengthening effective tools to desegregate communities, and advance a vision of housing that promotes fair housing choice and fosters inclusive communities for people of color, people with disabilities, and other protected classes.