Newswire: Fair housing still a distant journey for Black America

       By Charlene Crowell, Center for Responsible Learning
Map of African-American homeownership in the U. S.

( – Public pressure to restore a key HUD rule has united civil rights, public and private sector stakeholders in a swelling and nearly daily drumbeat of concern calling for fair housing to be supported and HUD’s replacement rule be rescinded.

On July 23 the rule known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) HUD Secretary Ben Carson termed the rule as “a ruse for social engineering under the guise of desegregation”.

“The worst thing we can do in a major health pandemic is increase housing instability, homelessness, and overcrowding — which is what will happen if the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing provision is significantly weakened,” noted Lisa Rice, President and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “Taking away strong fair housing tools makes all of our communities less safe and increases housing instability. We have learned that lesson and we should not repeat that mistake. We will not allow Trump to take away tools to fight discrimination or make our neighborhoods less safe.”

“The government helped create entrenched, pernicious residential segregation and has an obligation to undo it,” said Nikitra Bailey, an Executive Vice President with the Center for Responsible Lending. “By rejecting the Fair Housing Act’s mission to dismantle segregation and the inequity it created, this Administration is eschewing its responsibility and will be on the wrong side of history.”

Initially promulgated under the Obama Administration AFFH required local jurisdictions receiving HUD funds to take meaningful actions to halt decades of discriminatory policies and practices that perpetuated racially segregated communities. Under the Trump Administration the rule was suspended and then replaced by a new one termed, Preserving Community and Neighborhood Choice. Under the new rule HUD grantees are no longer required to actively pursue local plans to eliminate segregated housing.

Across the nation, civil rights and housing advocates agree that historical segregation is largely responsible for the nagging inequity that Black America still confronts today.

Additionally, it is also particularly noteworthy that HUD finalized its new rule without providing an opportunity for public comment – a serious departure from the regular federal rulemaking process.

For the nation’s estimated 70 largest and oldest public housing authorities that together serve more than one million low-income households who live in federally-assisted housing, the rule is an affront to fair housing advocates across the country.

In an August 3 letter to HUD’s Carson, The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (“CLPHA”) and Reno & Cavanaugh, PLLC wrote in part, “[R]ather than enforce an act of Congress, which they are obligated to do, HUD and the Administration endeavor to demonstrate Congressional support for the New AFFH Rule simply by relying on statements by individual members of Congress that “every community should be free to zone its neighborhoods and compete for new residents according to its distinct values.”

“As HUD is fully aware,” CLPHA continued, “phrases like “distinct values” have historically been used to justify segregation, discrimination, and overt suppression of the economic advancement of minority communities and communities of color. As HUD is also fully aware, public housing was often intentionally developed in segregated neighborhoods of high poverty and historically has been chronically underfunded because of these same “distinct values.”

Days earlier on July 27, three U.S. House leaders: Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee; Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary; and Congressman William. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Chair of the Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance issued a joint statement.

“The Fair Housing Act makes housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability illegal,” wrote the lawmakers. “The law includes a requirement that recipients of federal housing funding and the agencies of the federal government must “affirmatively further fair housing,” meaning that they must administer funds and programs in ways that actively undo and do not perpetuate patterns of historic residential segregation and systemic disinvestment…This senseless and misguided decision to roll back that important progress comes as the President peddles racist rhetoric that is reminiscent of the fearmongering tactics of those who supported racial segregation prior to the Fair Housing Act.”

The House Members also announced in their statement, that legislation to reinstate the AFFH rule would be introduced.

Also adding its voice and collective influence to preserve fair housing is the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the nation’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
According to its President, Vince Malta, “NAR maintains that a strong, affirmative fair housing rule is vital to advancing our nation’s progress toward thriving and inclusive communities. With the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on people of color reminding us of the costs of the failure to address barriers to housing opportunity, NAR remains committed to ensuring no American is unfairly denied this fundamental right in the future.”

NAR’s Malta makes a timely point. With federal stimulus funds expired, not only has $600 weekly unemployment aid ended; but one in five of the 110 million renters face the looming prospect of eviction by the end of September, according to an Aspen Institute research report entitled Strong Foundations: Financial Security Starts with Affordable, Stable Housing. The report also found that nearly all very low-income renters, half or more of their monthly income is spent on housing.

This housing unaffordability finding is also held by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition that measures affordable housing as no more than 30% of monthly income. In its 2020 report, however, America’s housing affordability challenges were widespread even before the pandemic:

11 million extremely low-income households are priced out of local market rate apartments;
Minimum wage employees need to work an average of 79 hours – just shy of two full weeks – to afford a one-bedroom apartment. That same minimum wage worker would need to work 97 hours to afford a two-bedroom dwelling; and
A full-time employee needs an hourly wage of $19.56 to afford a one-bedroom apartment, or $23.96 an hour to afford a two-bedroom unit.

According to an early July U.S. Census Bureau survey nearly 43.4 million Americans – or 25.3% of the adult population – either missed last month’s rent or mortgage payment, or have little to no confidence that they can pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time.

These and other societal ills were the focus of a recent op-ed authored by 27 U.S. mayors representing 13 states. Published by the Washington Post, mayors from large cities like Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston and Philadelphia joined with mid-sized cities including Durham (NC), Eugene (OR), Lansing (MI), and Ithaca (NY), made a public plea for housing.

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, housing has always been the primary contributor to this country’s massive racial wealth gap,” wrote the mayors. “Systemic racism created a society where white households have 10 times the wealth of Black households. We are at risk of history repeating itself if federal COVID -19 relief measures primarily benefit white households…After decades of disinvestment and denial, now is the time for Congress to show its commitment to housing programs that support the stability and mobility of people of color.”

How much longer must Black America and other people of color wait for fair housing?

Newswire: Trump’s housing announcement seen as so racist, “It’s not even a dog whistle anymore”

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent

President Donald Trump has rolled back a Barack Obama-era housing rule intended to halt racial segregation and eliminate racial disparities in American suburbs.
Trump announced on Wednesday, July 29, that he officially eliminated the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule that Obama put in place in 2015.
The rule required local governments to identify and address racial segregation patterns outlawed under the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The law tied federal funding to efforts to bridge inequalities.
The AFFH helped low-income and minority households, many of whom now face housing uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some interpret the move as an attempt to stoke fears in Trump’s base, which could drive supporters to the polls in November.
To others, the president is no longer using dog whistles. Instead, it’s apparent he has issued a clarion call for white supremacists and other racists that African Americans and other non-whites represent a danger to suburbia.
That the formal announcement of the rule change came on the day before Obama eulogized Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in Atlanta, wasn’t lost on many who expressed exasperation with the president.
“Oh my. I mean, it’s not even a dog whistle anymore,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) wrote on Twitter. “Our president is now a proud, vocal segregationist.”
“Vile, despicable, racist,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, tweeted about the decision.
“Secretary [Ben] Carson has worked to undermine fair housing since the day he stepped into the HUD building, so this action is not surprising. But it is abhorrent for Trump to use a critical fair housing tool for election year race-baiting, particularly during a time of reckoning for racial injustices,” Yentel said.
Trump called the rule a threat to “the suburban way of life.” “I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low-income housing built in your neighborhood,” the president tweeted.
Trump continued to brag about the move during a campaign stop in Midland, Texas. “I ended it two days ago. I signed out the bill. I signed out the article, the rule,” Trump declared. “And it was a bad rule, and it was causing tremendous housing prices going down and crime going up. I ended it. It had been hell for suburbia, now enjoy your life. Now we don’t win the election, that’s going to be reinstituted.”
He continued: “You know the suburbs; people fight all of their lives to get into the suburbs and have a beautiful home. There will be no more low-income housing forced into the suburbs.” Carson added that the AFFH rule was unworkable and “ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with.”
ABC News reported that Trump is again “counting on the suburban voters he won in 201r – apparent by his repeated false and fear-invoking claims that Democrats want to ‘abolish’ suburbs – but his divisive rhetoric may not be working this time around.”
The network cited a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showing the president trailing Biden in those neighborhoods by 9 percent – the most significant margin in the suburbs that polls had recorded since the 1980s when Republicans were winning there by double digits.
ABC News further reported that a New York Times/Siena College poll from June found 38 percent of voters in the suburbs approve of Trump’s job performance compared with 59 percent who disapprove. The key demographic disapproved of Trump’s handling of recent protests and race relations by an even wider margin, according to the Times.
Meanwhile, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said the elimination of the Obama-era housing rule would “eviscerate all oversight of state and local government compliance with fair housing laws.”
“It’s a full-frontal assault on the rule of law,” the group wrote. “The civil rights movement will fight this tooth and nail.”