Oh, the Irony. HUD Sued Over Fair Housing Violations
Two Texas civil rights groups and
the National Fair Housing Alliance are suing the Trump Administration over enforcement
of the Fair Housing Act. The suit,
specifically naming Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson
as Defendant, charges violations of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
While the impetus of the suit was
concern over the allocation of relief funds for housing and infrastructure
rebuilding to victims of Hurricane Harvey on the Gulf Coast, the plaintiffs are
principally suing over Carson’s January cancellation of a 2015 HUD rule known
as the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing provision. The rule required communities receiving
federal housing dollars to draft plans to end segregation in their communities
based on race, income, ethnicity, or physical disability. About 1,200 communities were affected by the
rule and billion of federal dollars were at stake.
According to Tracy Jan, writing in
The Washington Post, the rule, developed over a six-year period, was viewed by
many as an effort by HUD to enforce the 50-year old Fair Housing Act after
years of inaction by the agency. It was promulgated after three separate studies
in 2008-2010 found that HUD was requiring no evidence of anti-segregation efforts
on the part of communities as a condition of funding and that many communities
could not produce documentation of fair housing efforts. More than a third had not completed their
required five-year assessments.
By suspending the rule, the plaintiffs
say, Carson is allowing local and state governments to receive HUD grants
without proof of compliance with the Fair Housing Act. They allege Carson took
the action without providing the required public notice nor a comment
period. According to a notice in the
Federal Register at the time of the cancellation, local governments must
continue to promote fair housing but had until at least 2024 to do so. The Agency was suspending its review of
community plans and advised communities not to submit any that were in process.
In the meantime, HUD said
communities should revert to what they were supposed to have been doing before
the 2015 rule and certify that they have conducted an analysis of impediments
to fair housing and taken actions to overcome them.
The suit charges that Carson’s
actions violate the Fair Housing Act, leaving HUD without a way to prevent discrimination
in distributing $28 billion in disaster funding. The plaintiffs say the litigation was
intended to ensure that black, Hispanic and low-income residents of Houston and
Corpus Christi are not put at risk in the event of another natural disaster.
The New York Times reports that
Carson is acknowledging he probably can’t prevail in the lawsuit and has told
HUD staff to create an alternative plan which might include new hearings into
how to improve the rule. Reporter Glenn
Thrush says, “While Mr. Carson favors slowing down enforcement of the anti-segregation
initiative and limiting its scope, the impetus for doing away with the rule
comes from White House officials, according to three people with knowledge of
Before becoming HUD Secretary,
Carson wrote an editorial for the conservative Washington Times calling the
rule “social engineering.” He predicted
that its enforcement would repeat “the failure of school busing” in the 1970s.
Thrush recounted testimony Carson
gave Congress last month in which he said he intended to comply with other
department regulations requiring that the majority of disaster relief funding
be directed to those most in need.
However, when he met with fair housing advocates last month he rejected
their requests to reinstate the rule.
“HUD has continued to grant federal
dollars to municipalities even when they know the municipalities are engaging
in discrimination,” Lisa Rice, president and chief executive of the National
Fair Housing Alliance told the Washington Post. “They are rewarding cities for bad behavior.”
Jan said a HUD spokesman declined to
comment on the lawsuit, pointing to a statement at the time the agency
suspended the rule which asserted the Assessment of Fair Housing tool for local
governments wasn’t working well. “HUD
stands by the Fair Housing Act’s requirement to affirmatively furthering fair
housing, but we must make certain that the tools we provide to our grantees
work in the real world.”
The Texas Low Income Housing
Information Service and Texas Appleseed joined the National Fair Housing
Alliance in the suit.