The Trump administration said Thursday that it is revoking an Obama-era housing regulation designed to eliminate racial disparities in the suburbs, a move that fair housing advocates have decried as an election year stunt designed to appeal to white voters.
The move comes after President Donald Trump characterized the 2015 rule as an existential threat to the suburban way of life that will bring about more crime and lower home prices.
In a statement, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said the regulation known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, or the AFFH rule, was “unworkable and ultimately a waste of time for localities to comply with.”
It will be replaced by a new rule that reduces the burden of local jurisdictions to prove that they are actively taking steps to address historical patterns of racial segregation in order to qualify for HUD financing.
"Washington has no business dictating what is best to meet your local community’s unique needs,” Carson said.
The topic has become a potential hot-button issue in an election year as Trump, using language that fair housing advocates describe as openly racist, has repeatedly said the rule would force the construction of low-income housing in the suburbs.
“Your home will go down in value and crime rates will rapidly rise,” Trump said last week. “People have worked all their lives to get into a community, and now they’re going to watch it go to hell. Not going to happen, not while I’m here.”
HUD had already floated the idea of changing the rule earlier this year, but ultimately decided to cancel it entirely. Fair housing advocates says the latest HUD move attempts to skip over the traditional months-long notice and comment process where stakeholders are inviting to weigh in on a proposed rule change.
A statement from The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law called the change, “a full-frontal assault on the rule of law” and promised, "the civil rights movement will fight this tooth and nail.”
The 2015 rule established a 92-question survey and grading tool requiring local jurisdictions to assess their own racial and economic disparities and present detailed plans on how to address them. Carson said the jurisdictions were “forced to comply with complicated regulations that require hundreds of pages of reporting.”
The issue has been a long-standing issue for Carson, and fair housing advocates say the program never truly got off the ground because Carson suspended its implementation shortly after taking office.
Trump has used the AFFH rule as a means of contrasting himself with Joe Biden, his Democratic challenger and Barack Obama’s vice president. Biden has said he would implement the Obama administration’s housing rule.