Biden Revives Housing Rule That Trump Derided as ‘Abolishing the Suburbs’
Kriston Capps, Bloomberg, August 19, 2023
The Biden administration is restoring a rule that will require cities, counties and states that receive federal housing funds to examine patterns of residential segregation within their borders and take steps to uproot them, a mandate that was first established by civil rights–era legislation but has proved almost impossible to enact.
President Donald Trump ripped up the previous standard, known as the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which he condemned as a federal push to “abolish the suburbs” in the run-up to the presidential election in 2020. Soon after taking office, President Joe Biden pledged to reverse Trump’s decisions on AFFH and once again take steps toward an elusive goal of erasing color lines in American neighborhoods.
The new Biden rule resembles the AFFH guidance set forth by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2015, but officials say this new version establishes a more streamlined process for identifying civil rights concerns and reporting progress toward desegregation under the rubric of “equity plans.” Officials say this framework will be easier for localities of different sizes to follow, and harder for them to ignore.
Communities that fail to comply with the new fair housing rule could lose access to billions of dollars of federal funding.
“We are done with communities that do not serve people,” Housing Secretary Marcia L. Fudge said at a press conference on Wednesday. “We are going to hold responsible those that we give resources to. We no longer as a federal government can continue to fail the very people we need to help.”
A rule promulgated under the Obama administration in 2015 delivered formal guidance for how localities could comply with the federal mandate, along with the message that they needed to start taking it seriously. This AFFH rule required cities, counties, states and public housing agencies to draw up detailed fair housing assessments; HUD also launched a tool designed to help small communities in particular fill out the report. Some jurisdictions complained that the process was too burdensome, and that it asked for a perspective that no single agency was able to provide.
Biden’s proposed rule — which will be published imminently in the Federal Register and subject to public comment — will swap out fair housing assessments for equity plans. Local and county governments, state governments and public housing agencies will need to produce equity plans every five years, with larger governments on the hook first. Instead of requiring detailed responses to questionnaires, housing officials said, the questions will be built into the rule itself, and local jurisdictions will have greater latitude in how they frame their response.