The Biden administration on Thursday renewed a push to require cities to address patterns of residential segregation, revamping a regulation that former President Donald Trump had scrapped in a bid to woo suburban voters in the 2020 campaign.
The new proposed rule from the Housing and Urban Development Department incorporates the framework of the 2015 rule, an Obama-era effort to ensure that state and local governments were meeting their obligation to “affirmatively further fair housing” under the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
Cities and localities had complained that the rule was too onerous and complicated, drawing support from Trump, who complained that the regulation was part of an attempt to “destroy the beautiful suburbs.”
HUD’s revamped version is “structured to simplify and provide greater flexibility regarding the analysis that program participants must perform,” according to the text of the proposed rule.
“This proposed rule is a major step towards fulfilling the law’s full promise and advancing our legal, ethical, and moral charge to provide equitable access to opportunity for all,” HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said in a statement.
Under the proposed rule, states and localities would be required to submit “equity plans” to HUD every five years detailing their analysis of and strategies to combat fair housing problems in their communities. They would then be required to submit annual progress evaluations on implementing those strategies. The proposal also allows the public to file complaints with HUD about local governments that fail to comply.
Senate Banking Chair Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) called the proposal “an important step to ensure that we are fulfilling our nation’s commitment to fair housing in all of our communities.”
“Nearly 55 years after the Fair Housing Act became law, we still have not fully implemented its requirement to combat discrimination and affirmatively further fair housing,” Brown said in a statement. “We must all continue working to fulfill its promise.”
The 2015 rule would have required local governments to track patterns of segregation and poverty with a checklist of 92 questions to receive federal housing grants — drawing criticism from Republicans and even some Democratic housing officials.
The Trump administration suspended its implementation in 2018 before abolishing it altogether in the summer of 2020 as Trump warned that Democrats were trying to ruin the suburbs.
Housing advocates cheered the proposed revamp.
“Today’s updated proposed AFFH rule not only helps to undo the harmful efforts by the Trump administration to undermine fair housing, but it seeks to simplify the fair housing analysis process while still holding communities accountable for addressing racial inequities and advancing equity,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
“We look forward to closely reviewing the proposed rule and working with the administration on our collective efforts to advance racial and social equity,” she added.