The Biden administration has begun its efforts to roll back changes to two key fair-housing policies that were altered during the Trump administration.
On Tuesday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development submitted draft versions of the fair-housing rules to the Office of Management and Budget for review. The move comes months after President Joe Biden issued a memorandum directing the department to review all rule-making that occurred under the Trump administration as it related to the Fair Housing Act.
“We cannot comment while the rules are under review, but the President has every confidence in HUD to advance a regulatory agenda rooted in fairness and equity,” said Meaghan Lynch, press secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
One of the new policies relates to the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which was established by HUD under the Obama administration in 2015. The rule was designed to meet the requirements of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which was intended to require local governments to desegregate neighborhoods nationwide. Under the rule, localities that received certain HUD funding were required to perform an assessment of their efforts to assure fair housing.
Under the Trump administration, a new policy was introduced that redefined fair housing as any housing that is “affordable, safe, decent, free of unlawful discrimination, and accessible under civil rights laws,” instead of a definition based on racial equity. The Trump policy also removed the requirement for local governments to review their fair-housing efforts.
Then-President Trump made clear his efforts to roll back the fair-housing policy during his re-election campaign, claiming that suburban residents would “no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low-income housing built in your neighborhood.”
Separately, the Biden administration is also looking to revive the disparate-impact rule. That policy was designed to make it easier for Americans to bring forward lawsuits against housing providers such as landlords or mortgage lenders if those companies’ policies had an outsized impact on a protected group of people, even if the policy was not intentionally discriminatory. The policy has previously received the green light from the Supreme Court, yet it too was altered under the Trump administration.
Proponents of the disparate-impact rule argued that the changes ushered in under HUD Secretary Ben Carson would make it “near impossible” to bring forward a disparate-impact claim. Fair housing advocates have warned that it can be very difficult to prove that discriminatory policies were intentionally crafted to be exclusionary.
The submission of the new versions of both rules is the first major step in the rulemaking process, according to a HUD official. It is not yet clear what the new rules will look like, nor how closely they will mirror the policies put in place under President Obama.
After the OMB’s review is completed, the rules will be published by the Federal Register and the department will conduct outreach during a comment period, the HUD official added.
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