President Donald Trump said that he may end one Obama-era housing rule, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH), claiming the regulation that was aimed at desegregating neighborhoods has had a ‘devastating impact’ on America’s suburbs.
“At the request of many great Americans who live in the Suburbs, and others, I am studying the AFFH housing regulation that is having a devastating impact on these once thriving Suburban areas. Corrupt Joe Biden wants to make them MUCH WORSE,” he wrote June 30 on a Twitter post. “Not fair to homeowners, I may END!”
At the request of many great Americans who live in the Suburbs, and others, I am studying the AFFH housing regulation that is having a devastating impact on these once thriving Suburban areas. Corrupt Joe Biden wants to make them MUCH WORSE. Not fair to homeowners, I may END!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2020
The Obama administration published the AFFH rule in July 2015 to impose several legal obligations on local governments, including reviewing fair housing based on maps and tools provided by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and submitting plans—known as consolidated plans or ConPlan—every five years.
Trump’s announcement came as HUD stopped aggressively implementing the AFFH rule.
HUD suspended the obligation of local governments to file consolidated plans under the regulation in January 2018 and withdrew a computer assessment tool required to be used in preparing those plans in May 2018.
In the latest rule (pdf) published on Jan. 7, HUD changed the definition of AFFH, shifting the emphasis from “address[ing] significant disparities in housing” to “advancing fair housing choice within the program participant’s control or influence.”
HUD also gave more flexibility to local governments to identify common barriers to fair housing choice.
“Jurisdictions are free to choose to undertake changes to zoning or land-use policies as one method of complying with the AFFH obligation,” reads the Jan. 7 rule. “However, no jurisdiction may have their [AFFH] certification questioned because they do not choose to undertake zoning changes.”
The rule also allows local governments to use non-qualitative indicators to identify those barriers.
HUD said in a statement on Jan. 7 that the rule was changed because the AFFH rule is “ineffective, highly prescriptive, and effectively discouraged the production of affordable housing.”
“By fixing the old Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, localities now have the flexibility to devise housing plans that fit their unique needs and provide families with more housing choices within their reach,” Housing Secretary Ben Carson said. “Mayors know their communities best, so we are empowering them to make housing decisions that meet their unique needs, not a mandate from the federal government.”
The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), a civil rights advocacy group, objected strongly to Trump’s post.
“As the nation demands an end to systemic racism, this is the last moment we should be gutting longstanding tools to do precisely that,” NFHA President and CEO Lisa Rice said in response to Trump’s Twitter post.
Trump and presumptive Democrat candidate Joe Biden have strong differences in housing policy, as pointed out by Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at Ethics & Public Policy Center.
While the Trump administration leaves the decision on zoning more to local governments, the Biden campaign website says he will push local governments to change zoning law by requiring states receiving federal funding “to develop a strategy for inclusionary zoning,” based on a proposal from Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
According to Kurtz, Biden’s plan to strengthen the AFFH would force “economic integration” on the suburbs, slowing suburban growth and redistributing tax revenues to metropolitan areas.