Critics say the move will make it easier for cities and towns to keep racist housing policies that have contributed to segregation.
Update: This story has been updated with a tweet from President Trump.
The Trump administration repealed an Obama-era housing rule and replaced it with weaker one last Thursday, a move that critics say will make it easier for cities to continue using policies that promote segregation and housing discrimination.
Despite heavy criticism, President Trump doubled down on the rule, using a racist dog whistle in the tweet, saying people would “not longer be bothered or financially hurt” by “low income housing.”
The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, which was implemented in 2015, required cities and towns that get federal housing money to take meaningful action to reduce discriminatory housing policies and practices that have been at work for years. That meant actually tracking patterns of poverty and segregation in their locality, and then answering dozens of questions to qualify for the funding.
Requiring localities to take a look at their housing practices was meant to guide local governments to create policies that serve the whole community, instead of continuing to ignore racist housing practices.
For example, Cook County, Illinois, which encompasses Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, found that the AFFH provided resources that helped the county honestly assess issues of segregation. They noted in a 2018 report that strong public engagement, collaboration across jurisdictions, and local data were effective tools to create strategies to bring greater equity to housing.
But the Trump administration got rid of the policy, setting a much lower bar for localities to qualify for federal-housing funding. It will rely on local governments to self-certify that they are “furthering fair housing,” according to POLITICO. Without requirements to ensure that communities are actually using fair practices, critics argue that the new policy will continue to promote segregation.
The move comes as Trump works to portray the housing rule as a threat to suburban voters, without any evidence of damage done to suburbs through the housing rule, which has been around for five years.
Critics have called out Trump’s rhetoric on the rule change, saying it stokes racial division.
“Housing justice and racial justice are inextricably linked. The AFFH regulation was an important step to rectify decades of racist housing policies that created today’s segregated neighborhoods and all its associated harm to children, families and the country,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition in a statement.
“Secretary Carson has worked to undermine fair housing since the day he stepped into the HUD building, so this action is not surprising. But it is abhorrent for Trump to use a critical fair housing tool for election year race-baiting, particularly during a time of reckoning for racial injustices.”
13 other advocacy groups around the U.S have issued statements against the implementation of Trump’s policy.
“This approach won’t affirmatively further anything other than discrimination,” wrote the National Community Reinvestment Coalition in a statement.