Advocates Decry The Trump Administration’s Change To Fair Housing Rule

For lease sign in Buffalo Grove
In this AP file photo from April 2020, a for lease sign is seen in Buffalo Grove, Ill. The Trump Administration has replaced an Obama-era fair housing rule that required local governments that receive HUD money to show their fair housing plans. Now, local governments can simply say they have a fair housing plan — without showing or proving it. Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press
For lease sign in Buffalo Grove
In this AP file photo from April 2020, a for lease sign is seen in Buffalo Grove, Ill. The Trump Administration has replaced an Obama-era fair housing rule that required local governments that receive HUD money to show their fair housing plans. Now, local governments can simply say they have a fair housing plan — without showing or proving it. Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press

Advocates Decry The Trump Administration’s Change To Fair Housing Rule

In 2015, then-U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro stood in front of the former Stateway Gardens on Chicago’s South Side to introduce a new rule to help communities end poverty and segregation.

Known as “affirmatively furthering fair housing” under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the Obama-era regulation required localities that receive HUD money to show their fair housing plans. And the HUD rule provided massive demographic data, along racial and income lines, so communities could have help to craft their plans.

Now, the Trump Administration has gutted that rule, replacing it with one that says locales can simply say they have a fair housing plan — without showing or proving it.

“Turning the time back is not the way to go on this, especially now in the Black Lives Matter movement [and] what we’re seeing in the country today,” said Michael Seng, of the UIC John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Clinic.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson, Trump’s pick to lead the agency, called the old rule social engineering even before he took the position. But fair housing advocates say that the government engineered housing segregation through a host of 20th century policies.

“Washington has no business dictating what is best to meet your local community’s unique needs,” Carson said in a statement.

For Trump’s part, he said the old rule was a threat to the suburbs, as he makes a play for those voters in his reelection campaign. In fact, “saving our suburbs” is how the White House labels the change. “This action ends the Federal encroachment on local communities that threatened our nation’s suburbs,” reads a White House fact sheet released Thursday describing the rule change.

The Obama-era rule was important to fair housing advocates because some suburbs in Chicago, for example, keep affordable housing out of their communities.

“We all know that the whole history of housing, the whole history of lending, the whole history of land-use regulation has produced segregated communities. We’re seeing the effect of that everyday,” Seng said.

Meanwhile, legal action by advocates around the country is being considered.

But some suburbs are continuing with their work toward fair housing. Cook County is leading a regional assessment of fair housing, with municipalities like Skokie participating.

Natalie Moore is a reporter on WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. You can follow her on Twitter at @natalieymoore.