Analyzing the Decision to Rewrite the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule

Observers have been pointing out the contradictions in Secretary Ben Carson's justifications for a new approach to the Fair Housing Act.
August 15, 2018, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Gregory Reed

Writers have been quick to produce commentary after news broke earlier in the week that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had launched a rulemaking process to rewrite the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule approved by the Obama administration in 2015.

Henry Grabar writes for Slate, describing the action is the "firmest commitment yet to tear down the Obama-era framework for enforcing the Fair Housing Act."

Mostly, however, Grabar points out the contradictory frame HUD Secretary Ben Carson has built around his case for drawing back the AFFH rule. While Carson makes the case that the AFFH rule has made affordable housing scarcer, fair housing experts say the rule was designed to combat segregation and discrimination, not scarcity.

While Carson is on the record saying he wants to encourage development of middle-income multi-family dwellings, Grabar doesn't have to look far in Secretary Carson's past to find evidence that comment is misleading. "In his only published commentary on housing policy before his appointment to HUD, he called the 2015 AFFH rule “social engineering” that would 'fundamentally change the nature of some communities from primarily single-family to largely apartment-based areas.'"

Grabar's take: no matter how Secretary Carson justifies the need for this policy, he's pursuing the rule change for the AFFH in accordance with a traditionally conservative approach to land use and fair housing regulations, "which is to reject federal efforts to demolish the walls that wealthy white suburbs have built."

Dominique Mosbergen also followed up the news of the proposed rulemaking process by quoting Sara Pratt, a civil rights attorney and former Obama official who oversaw HUD’s enforcement of the rule and is now suing HUD for failing to implement the AFFH rule. "You’re going back to communities willfully blinding themselves to patterns of segregation," Pratt told NBC News. "Without this rule, communities will not do the work to eliminate discrimination and segregation."

Finally, Brakkton Booker also reported on the rulemaking announcement, noting that HUD will be holding "informal listening forums will be held to get input from city planners, public housing authorities, housing advocates authorities and other stakeholders on the pending rule change."

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Published on Monday, August 13, 2018 in Slate
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