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HUD Plans Overhaul Of Obama-Era Fair Housing Rule That Aims To Prevent Housing Discrimination

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is planning to rewrite a rule formulated about three years ago to govern part of the enforcement of the 1968 Fair Housing Act — which aims to eliminate discriminatory barriers and segregation in the housing market.  

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HUD has asked for public comment about the rule change, stating that the change will minimize the regulatory burden on local communities.

"HUD's 2015 rule often dictated unworkable requirements and actually impeded the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing," HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. 

Carson said that without the rule, localities would be freer to develop more low-income housing. The change in policy would also allow HUD to use its grant-giving power to encourage localities to change their zoning codes to allow for more residential development, The Real Deal reports.

Up for revision is the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which the Obama administration put into effect. The rule requires local governments to document the steps they plan to take to eliminate discriminatory roadblocks in their markets, using a standardized reporting system created for that purpose.

The intent of the Fair Housing Act was not only to outlaw housing discrimination, but also to require jurisdictions to undo historic patterns of segregation and other types of discrimination, the National Low Income Housing Coalition reports

Though HUD is now planning a formal revision of AFFH, the department has been relaxing requirements under the rule since the beginning of 2018. In January, HUD suspended the obligation of local governments to file plans under the regulation, and in May the agency withdrew a computer assessment tool that local governments had to use in preparing those plans. 

In May, the National Fair Housing Alliance, Texas Appleseed and the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service asked a federal court in Washington, D.C., to order HUD to reinstate the requirements under AFFH.

"The AFFH rule was adopted after years of study and consultation with stakeholders; HUD considered more than 1,000 formal comments before finalizing the rule," the NFHA said in a statement.

Earlier this year, HUD separately proposed stricter standards for those receiving public housing aid. The agency will be taking comments on the AFFH rule change for the next two months.