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HUD Fair Housing Rule Grants: Not Everybody Wants Some

In July 2015, HUD published the finalized Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule in the Federal Register with the goal of providing participants in HUD programs with clear guidelines and data they need to achieve the goals outlined in the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

While the final rule was widely praised and viewed as a great achievement for the Obama Administration, not everyone is excited about it. Four communities have recently decided that they no longer want to receive HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funds associated with the AFFH Rule: Castle Rock, Colorado; Douglas County, Colorado; Sedgwick County, Kansas; and Wayne Township, New Jersey, which announced on September 7 that it would not accept the funds.

The mandate for what is today’s AFFH Rule was included in the original language of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which directs HUD and its program participants to promote fair housing and equal opportunity so that everyone can have access to affordable, quality housing regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status.

In the summer of 2015, when HUD announced the finalized AFFH Rule, HUD Secretary Julián Castro called the rule “historic” and the Washington Post said that finalizing the rule had been a top priority of civil rights groups in order to dismantle segregation and promote integration in major metro areas such as Chicago and Baltimore that have historically been deeply segregated.

Wayne Township, New Jersey, had been a recipient of HUD’s CDBG funds for several years, according to Property Value Defense, and planned to renew its application for the grants. But the changes made in July 2015 to the AFFH Rule prompted the town to make a change of its own regarding the reception of the funds.

“I did commit to take a look at what was happening with these funds, the new restrictions which were being regulated and what was going to happen at the end if we continue to take these funds,” said Wayne Township Mayor Chris Vergano. “The Township of Wayne will no longer be applying for these funds based on what the United States government has attempted to do by restructuring and reinventing what communities are supposed to look like.”

A letter written by Castle Rock, Colorado, Mayor Paul Donahue back in April stated that “If we continue to accept the HUD grants, we will be forced to prepare detailed taxpayer-financed studies of our schools-retail, housing. and other community aspects to HUD, who will decide if our neighborhoods are ‘furthering fair housing.’ That means that even though our town has never been found in violation of the anti-discrimination housing rules that have been law for over 50 years, HUD on a whim could force us to build low-income, government subsidized housing into our neighborhoods if HUD decides we aren’t racially balanced enough.”

Sedgwick County, Kansas, commissioners voted in June to stop accepting funding from HUD associated with the AFFH Rule, with County Commissioner Richard Ranzau explaining, “If we did accept this money and all of the government’s control, what happens to our county in the future?  We will be tying future officials’ hands and sticking them with zoning and planning and our community will have no say.”

HUD did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the four communities rejecting the AFFH Rule grants.

In May 2016, the U.S. Senate, with a Republican majority, voted 60 to 37 to reject an amendment to the fiscal 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development funding legislation proposed by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would defund the AFFH Rule. Instead, the Senate voted 87 to 9 to add an amendment proposed by Susan Collins (R-Maine) that Collins said would prohibit HUD from intervening in local zoning matters.

A letter written by Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director Counsel of the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund, to the U.S. Senate in May in response to Lee's proposal stated that, “Although our nation has made progress toward eliminating discrimination and dismantling historic segregation in housing, we simply cannot afford the rollback of any law, policy, or rule that addresses the limitation of housing choices and opportunities for people of color.To that end, we urge you to ensure that communities are equipped with the tools and assistance they need to promote racial integration and expand access to opportunity and to oppose any amendment that would seek to do otherwise.”

Click here to view the final AFFH Rule.

About Author: Seth Welborn

Seth Welborn is a Harding University graduate with a degree in English and a minor in writing. He is a contributing writer for MReport. An East Texas Native, he has studied abroad in Athens, Greece and works part-time as a photographer.

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