3/19/2020 in News & Media, NFHA News, Press Releases

Thousands Submit Comments to HUD Opposing Its Attack on Fair Housing

For Immediate Release

March 19, 2020

Contact: Dale Van Ollefen | 202-823-3297 | dvanollefen@kivvit.com

Thousands Submit Comments to HUD Opposing Its Attack on Fair Housing

Civil rights advocates hosted a national week of action to challenge a Trump administration proposal weakening the Fair Housing Act

Washington, D.C. — More than 19,500 individuals and organizations submitted comments in response to a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed rule that would gut an essential civil rights tool under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) before the public comment period closed this week. The Trump administration proposed the rule in January and has since received widespread opposition from a wide array of civil rights advocates, legal experts, business groups and private citizens throughout the country.

The proposal aims to effectively eliminate the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) mandate, an essential housing discrimination protection that is designed to correct discriminatory housing practices and address the lasting impacts of government- and privately- sponsored residential segregation.

Scores of national advocacy groups, public and private entities, and members of Congress submitted comments in opposition to the Trump administration’s proposal, including the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. The Committee’s minority party members wrote in their comment that the proposed rule “guts both the spirit and intent of the FHA and replaces it with an approach that relies on the faulty premise that simply increasing housing supply can address the problems of housing discrimination and segregation.”

“The Fair Housing Act’s AFFH rule was constructed to confront the role of government-engineered policies and practices that have cemented intentional segregation throughout the United States,” said Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “By abandoning the rule, HUD is disposing of the requirements to conduct any analysis of the barriers to housing and neighborhood opportunity for protected classes, and by making no requirement to assess the level of residential segregation or racially concentrated poverty in any given location, HUD will effectively greenlight discrimination and allow the perpetuation of segregation and its resultant harms indefinitely. This attack on fair housing is part of the Trump administration’s larger ongoing efforts to dismantle civil rights protections, and it must be stopped.”

“We hope that HUD will step up in this critical moment and heed the call to abandon its misguided proposal,” said Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project. “Now is not the time to be contemplating a huge step backwards in civil rights and the basic human right to housing.”

“More than 19,500 comments were submitted in response to HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s proposed changes to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule,” said Diane Yentel president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “The proposed rollback of the 2015 AFFH rule represented a complete retreat from efforts to undo historic, government-driven patterns of housing discrimination and segregation throughout the U.S. The activism generated in response to these proposed changes illustrates a clear call for this administration to abandon their ill-conceived proposal to gut the AFFH. At a time when the housing crisis and its disproportionate harm to low-income people of color worsens, it’s now more important than ever for HUD to reinstate the 2015 rule and work towards fulfilling its obligation to further fair housing in our country.”

“Secretary Carson’s proposal is a blatant attempt to undermine the Fair Housing Act’s focus on eliminating structural racism in housing,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The racial justice movement is fighting back to ensure that this administration does not erase hard-fought gains for our communities.”

“Amidst weeks of activism by civil rights and fair housing advocates, thousands of individuals, organizations, and policymakers submitted comments regarding the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule change proposed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),” said Lisa Cylar Barrett, director of policy at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF). “HUD must take seriously the concerns voiced by many Americans that redefining the AFFH rule will only worsen — not remedy — housing discrimination in the United States. Indeed, HUD should resume implementation of the 2015 AFFH regulation instead of enacting this new rule, as the proposed new definition of AFFH represents a complete and egregious deviation from the intent of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.”

“The Fair Housing Act was passed to address discriminatory policies and practices that denied housing opportunities to people of color and created entrenched residential segregation across the United States. It requires the government to take affirmative steps to achieve the Act’s aims: to promote integration and true housing choice,” said Megan Haberle, deputy director of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council. “This proposed rule, however, would do none of those things. It does not even ask that HUD grantees or the HUD staff providing oversight consider segregation or the unavailability of real housing choice across protected characteristics – much less take active steps to remedy those problems. It erases a functioning rule that, in contrast to the proposed one, squarely addresses fair housing problems and was producing significant benefits and gains until suspended.”

Coalition members and allies voiced their opposition to the rule in American Banker, MarketWatch, BET, The Hill, and two separate opinion pieces in the New York Times.

Leading up to the March 16 public comment period deadline, civil rights and fair housing groups and their members throughout the country came together to express opposition to the proposed rule during a coordinated week of action. Participants joined online and in-person events where they learned more about HUD’s proposed rule and the potential consequences for communities throughout the country if it is passed.

The National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) hosted a Facebook Live panel alongside the National Low Income Housing Coalition on March 12. To date, the event’s recording has reached more than 1,200 people all looking to understand how the rule would affect them and how they could make their opposition known to HUD.

“Our goal with hosting events like this is to provide people with the necessary information they need to be able to advocate on behalf of themselves and those who can’t,” said Lisa Rice, president and CEO of NFHA. “I was inspired by the questions asked because it showed that people care about this issue and they want to do the best they can to fight this attack on our country’s most vulnerable communities.”

Over the course of the week, events were hosted by seven different advocacy groups to increase awareness about opposition to this proposal.

AFFH Week of Action Events

National Racial and Economic Justice Briefing — AFFH, CRA, and Disparate Impact

Hosted by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF)

March 4 | Virtual

Rally at HUD in Defense of AFFH

Hosted by Alliance for Housing Justice

March 5 | Washington, D.C.

AFFH Comment Writing Party

Hosted by NLIHC and NHLP

March 9 | Washington, D.C.

Q&A on proposed changes to the AFFH rule

Hosted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

March 10 | Virtual

Facebook Live Panel

Hosted by NFHA and NLIHC

March 12 | Virtual

Comment Writing Party

Hosted by NFHA

March 12 | Washington, D.C.

#KeepHousingFair Tweetstorm

Hosted by NLIHC

March 13 | Virtual

Even though the public comment period has ended, fair housing groups and allies will continue to let HUD know that we oppose this rule and all of the administration’s ongoing attacks against the Fair Housing Act and the civil rights protections we hold dear.

To learn more about the AFFH mandate and HUD’s ongoing attempts to undermine our civil rights protections, visit nationalfairhousing.org. Together, we can keep housing fair.