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Washington, D.C. – Today, Secretary Ben Carson and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) posted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on its website that will be published shortly and that, if finalized, would gut the department’s oversight of its local and state government grantees’ compliance with fair housing requirements. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) condemns this outrageous step backwards. The proposal would dismantle HUD’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule and effectively allow jurisdictions free reign to discriminate without consequences. The Lawyers’ Committee engaged in extensive advocacy to urge the adoption of the 2015 rule and has played a significant role in that rule’s successful implementation.

“The 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule was a historic victory for the civil rights movement,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Secretary Carson should do the right thing: withdraw this disastrous proposal and take steps to restart the implementation of the 2015 rule. 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. In no uncertain terms, we condemn this latest attempt by Secretary Carson to undermine fair housing efforts in our country.”

Under the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, HUD required states, municipalities, and public housing authorities that receive certain federal housing and community development funds to prepare a plan called an Assessment of Fair Housing every five years. The Assessment of Fair Housing, developed with robust community engagement as well as data and policy analysis, served as a basis for the adoption of ambitious goals and strategies for overcoming entrenched issues like residential racial segregation and lack of access to opportunity in low-income communities of color.

HUD effectively suspended the implementation of the 2015 rule in 2018.HUD’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would do away with the Assessment of Fair Housing process entirely. Instead, HUD would require states and localities to select three goals for nominally advancing fair housing choice while placing no real obligations on public housing authorities. HUD would only exercise real oversight over its grantees if it found that either their goals or the actions taken to advance their goals were irrational. The proposal’s definition of fair housing choice as being limited to the ability of individuals and families to secure housing that is “within their means” is also inconsistent with heartland Fair Housing Act jurisprudence holding municipalities liable for preventing the development of affordable housing in predominantly white neighborhoods.

“It is bitterly ironic that HUD would arm local governments with the excuse that protections for tenants, workers, and the environment are barriers to fair housing,” said Thomas Silverstein, Counsel in the Fair Housing & Community Development Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Communities across the country will see right through this ploy and mobilize to submit comments in opposition to Secretary Carson’s proposed regulation.”

In addition to dismantling its system for fair housing oversight of its grantees, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking doubles as a transparently ideological attack on equitable local policies that advance racial and economic justice. In instructing state and local governments as to acceptable goals for advancing fair housing choice, HUD asserts that important policies like rent control, green building standards, wetlands protections, and labor standards are inherent barriers to fair housing choice. Communities of color facing displacement and environmental racism have organized and advocated for these very policies for years.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is subject to a 60-day public comment period. The Lawyers’ Committee will be working with coalition partners and communities to submit comments in opposition to the proposal.